Magma - Mekan?k Destrukt?w Kommand?h

Year of Release: 1989
Label: Seventh Records
Catalog Number: REX VIZ/HMCD 85
Format: CD
Total Time: 37:54:00

Magma are one of those kind of bands that you will either like or hate upon first hearing. If you've been raised on a steady diet of Yes, Genesis, and ELP and their various progeny and clones, then you might find Magma a little different from what you're used to. You won't find pieces that are easily hummable or singable, as you might a track by the aforementioned artists. And yet, if you think of a convergence of opera and performance art, and view it from that perspective -- at least where the vocals are concerned -- everything seems to fall into place. Magma aren't opera and they aren't performance art, except that any artist that takes the stage is performing art? but let's not split hairs here. I'm thinking of the difference between Jon Anderson and Laurie Anderson, for example, and that Magma fall somewhere in between. Sure, Genesis were theatrical, and in that respect, might also be considered performance artists, but let's throw in the added element of being avant-garde. Rather, let's say non-conventional. It is not conventional to create your own language in which to put forth your ideas, and yet Christian Vander and company sing in a created language (based on German and French) called Kobaïan, all in support of a sci-fi concept -- humans have left Earth, settling on Kobaïa; a group of Kobaïans returns to Earth many years later?

What really gives this its unique character is not that what they are singing is in a "foreign language," but that there is a bit of eccentricity in the delivery. If you've never heard Magma before, then what will strike you immediately is the vocals. Not that they are bad, mind you. But there are some whoops and shrieks spread throughout that might give you pause. Certainly, any one about you overhearing this who has no familiarity with Magma, will probably pause long enough to give you wary, uncertain look. But for those shrill voices, though, one might just assume you are listening to German opera and pause to listen instead. And though you don't understand a lick of what they're singing, by the end you know you have been taken somewhere, somewhere along a path with shifting dynamics, arriving in dramatic fashion. Thus emotion and cadence play a larger part in understanding Magma than figuring out what the words are -- though I suppose if one speaks German or French, they might be able to understand the lexicon better than one who doesn't. If you read French however, you will be able to understand the story as given in the liner notes (though I imagine there's an English translation floating around the Internet somewhere).

But the vocals are only one aspect to Magma's sound, and while an important one, it is also important to listen beyond the vocals to the music, which is simply fantastic. I especially enjoy the guitar work of Claude Oimos, the brass elements of Teddy Lasry, and the piano/organ work of Jean-Luc Manderlier. While the album begins with only a couple of tone colors, a hypnotic to and fro rhythm, additional colors are brought in with the vocals and the brass. Tempo changes bring in more percussion, sweet toned guitar, and a often classic organ sound. Some sections do seem a little over long, as phrases are repeated a time or two too many. But, no sooner do you think that, but the piece shifts gears again. At times, the keyboards take deliver a percussive attack such that one might briefly think of ELP during the Tarkus era, though it would be only briefly.

Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh is considered by many to be one of, if not the, best Magma album. There is a different version of the album, refered to as MK, that a segment of Magma's fans prefer. It is said to be a more sparse version. Nonetheless, MDK is a rich and dramatic release and I think if one listens to it for what it is, without trying to compare it to other prog releases, they too will find they like it. Whether in the end you end up liking it is, like everything, up to you and your tastes. But aside from what I feel are passages that last wee too long, as mentioned, this is a very good release.

Originally released in 1973 (A&M, 4397); the Seventh edition reissued in 1999 and 2005

Hortz Fur Dëhn Stekëhn West (9:36) / Ïma Sürï Dondaï (4:30) / Kobaïa Is De H¨ndïn (3:33) / Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanïk (7:30) / Nebëhr Gudahtt (6:03) / Mekanïk Kommandöh (4:09) / Kreühn Köhrmahn Iss De H¨ndin (3:13) (some editions also have M.D.K. [Alternate Version] (34:35))

Christian Vander - drums, vocals, organ, percussion
Jannik Top - bass
Klaus Blasquiz - vocals, percussion
Jean-Luc Manderlier - piano, organ
René Garber - bass clarinet, vocals
Claude Olmos - guitar
Stella Vander - choir, Organik Kommandeuhr
Choir - Muriel Streisfeld, Evelyne Razymovski, Michele Saulnier, Doris Reihnardt, Stella Vander
Teddy Lasry - brass, Organik Kommandeuhr, flute

Magma (1970)
1,001 Degrees Centigrade (1971)
Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh (1973/1989)
Kohntarkosz (1974)
Udu Wudu (1976)
Retrospective, Vols. 1 & 2 (1981)
Retrospective, Vol. 3 (1981)
Merci (1984)
Magma Live (1984)
Mythes et Legendes, Vol.1 (1985)
Magma Live (1990)
Attahk (1990)
Le Voix de Magma: Live Dournevez (1992)
Les Genies Du Rock N?38 (1993)
Bobino, 1981 (1995)
Theatre du Taur - Toulouse 1975 (1995
Magma Concert 1971 Bruxelles - Theatre 140 (1996)
Kompila (1997)
3599 (1999)
Magma Kobia (1999)
Live (2001)
La Trilogie Theusz Hamtaahk (2001)
Spiritual (2002)
Simples (200?)

Genre: Zuehl

Origin FR

Added: July 27th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1162
Language: english


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