Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Magma - BBC 1974 - Londres

BBC 1974 - Londres

Released 1999 on Akt
Reviewed by IanB, 12/08/2005ce

1) Theusz Hamtaahk 30.03
2) Köhntarkösz 27.26

For the uninitiated, for the terminally progphobic and those with a mistrust of anything that slips the knot of four four and drifts into oceans of polyrhythmic perversity this is possibly the place to both start and finish one's Magma collection. Small group, one bass player, no choir, sharp focus, travelling sextet Magma. Gloriously over-reaching - Fitzcaraldo or 1900 rather than Apolcalypse Now or Deer Hunter - menacing and uplifting in the way that early Bathory could have been had they had more than fivepence to record with. You'll get carried along or trampled in the rush.

For the gentle reader with a soft spot for 'Live Dead', a long term relationship with 'Fun House' and a grave mistrust of all things Mahavishnu there is perhaps a frightening amount of Fender Rhodes (think Rick Wright's evocation of damp Orwellian spookiness on 'Animals' drawn into a McCoy Tyner trance-mission) and the kind of flying cymbals that would be excessive even for a Bunny Lee production. If like Stooges acolyte Andrew Eldritch you think the very first thing to do with a drum kit is to dispense with the Zildjans then you should look away.

This is also one of those records that really needs to be listened to in reverse order or as two 70's Fela one-track mini albums. The thirty minute opener "Theusz Hamtaahk" is glorious in its own right but ill served as an aperitif and misplaced as a chaser so skip it for now because you'll play the second track ten times straight before you'll want to listen to anything else. It is to 'In a Silent Way' what 'Schwingungen' is to The Stones' version of "Little Red Rooster".

The half hour rendering of "Köhntarkösz" begins with a tribal call to arms like an army from Kurosawa's 'Ran' appearing over the brow of Primrose Hill on a bank holiday Monday.

To imagine 'Caravanserai' era Santana joined briefly by Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler gives you a sense of the sonic space that is occupied by an epic intro that threatens to reduce the entirity of "Close To The Edge" to a level as twee and bloodless as the worst of Caravan. And I do love "Close To The Edge".

As a set-up jam it's an ensemble tour de (brute) force yet about five minutes in the Sabs have drifted back to the pub and the Floyd have recruited Elvin Jones on drums with Gilmour restricted to playing no more than three notes to the bar.

This then resolves into a Vander led two-chord space vamp. They tick-tock tick-tock like an amped -up Weather Report but where Zawinul and co were strictly earthbound, an over-achieving bar band of obtuse jazz swots, Magma travel the spaceways somewhere between 'Space Ritual' and 'The Nubians Of Plutonia'.

The finale is a train wreck of shield clashing, wordless singing (a blessing for the progphobic) and the return of the spectral Sabs - except this time Iommi's got a hold of the Rhodes and Geezer is off on a Jazz Odyssey ("our bass player wrote this").

Instead of fading into progable deep space the music ends as abruptly as it began with a spear through the ribs. Breathless.

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