Jazz music played a heavy influence on the music of Magma like it did with bands like Colosseum. The spirit and sounds of John Coltrane played a heavy hand in Magma songs. The band’s first album entitled Magma was released in 1970. Their debut album was a two record set which is highly unusual for a band to be releasing a double album as their first release.
Magma continued to release studio records in the 1970’s on a pretty steady basis. They released 1001° Centigrades in 1971, Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh in 1973, Ẁurdah Ïtah in 1974, Köhntarkösz also in 1974, Üdü Ẁüdü in 1976, and Attahk in 1978. The band Magma only released on album in the 1980’s entitled Merci which was issued in 1984.
After the band released Meci in 1984, it would be twenty years before they released another album. In 2004 Magma issued the album K.A. (Köhntarkösz Anteria). It was and album that consisted of material written by Christian Vander in the early 1970s. In 2009 the band released their tenth studio album entitled Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré . Three more albums were released after the Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré record. They were Félicité Thösz in 2012, Rïah Sahïltaahk in 2014 and Šlaǧ Tanƶ in 2015.
The band Magma have also released a large assortment of live albums, videos and compilations. They have left behind a massive boy of work for their fans. Our Top 10 Magma songs list only touches on a very small percentage of Magma songs. We hope our choices entice you to check out the band if you are unfamiliar with their material.
# 10 – Epok I – Theusz Hamtaahk
“Epok I – Theusz Hamtaahk” is the first movement of Magma’s expansive and epic Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy, which is not only a piece of music but an elaborate narrative that spans the cosmos. The work was first performed in the 1970s, but it wouldn’t see an official studio release until much later, with live renditions being the primary source for listeners. The track was recorded live multiple times throughout the years, capturing the raw energy and intricate musicianship characteristic of Magma’s performances. The recording sessions for these live versions were held in various locations, each time harnessing the live atmosphere to relay the power of the composition.
The lineup for Magma has been fluid over the years, with Christian Vander, the founder, consistently at the core as the drummer and leading compositional force. For the performances of “Epok I – Theusz Hamtaahk,” the band typically included a blend of keyboards, bass, guitar, brass, woodwinds, and a chorus of vocalists, all of whom contributed to the dense and dynamic soundscapes Magma is known for. The music itself is an odyssey, with “Epok I – Theusz Hamtaahk” serving as a dramatic and intricate opening sequence that establishes the trilogy’s mythological storyline, sung in the constructed language of Kobaïan.
Critically, Magma has been celebrated for its creation of the Zeuhl genre, and “Epok I – Theusz Hamtaahk” is a cornerstone of that style. The track has been praised for its fusion of influences, ranging from classical music to jazz and progressive rock, all unified by a narrative ambition that is as much about storytelling as it is about musical exploration. While the trilogy has not been a fixture on mainstream charts, it has earned a prestigious place within the annals of progressive music. It is revered by critics and fans alike for its audacity, complexity, and the uncompromising vision of Vander, who channeled his admiration for Coltrane and Stravinsky into a distinct musical universe. “Epok I – Theusz Hamtaahk,” with its ambitious scope and live vitality, remains an essential listening experience for those who seek music that defies convention and genre.
# 9 – Coltrane Sundia
The track “Coltrane Sundia,” was released on the album Köhntarkösz. The album was released in 1974. “Coltrane Sundia” stands as a distinct piece within Magma’s catalog, present on their album Attahk. The band, formed by drummer and composer Christian Vander, has been pivotal in the avant-garde rock scene since their inception in the late 1960s. For Attahk, the recording sessions were meticulously carried out at Studio De Milan in Paris, which had become a crucible for the band’s creative output during this period. Christian Vander not only took the helm as the lead composer and musician but also often took on the producer role, ensuring his singular vision was realized.
The ensemble for Magma during the Attahk era featured a broad tapestry of instrumentalists and vocalists, including Stella Vander, who provided the choral-like vocal textures that are so characteristic of Magma’s music. “Coltrane Sundia,” in particular, is an ode to the jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, whose influence on Vander and consequently on Magma’s music has been profound. The track is imbued with jazz fusion elements but rendered through the prism of Magma’s unique musical language known as Kobaïan, which combines scat-like vocalizations with Vander’s Zeuhl style – a genre unto itself, pushing the boundaries of rock and jazz.
Critically, Magma has always occupied a niche space, with their work being more of a cult fascination rather than a commercial venture. “Coltrane Sundia” has been subject to various interpretations, seen by some as a spiritual journey akin to the paths Coltrane explored in his later works. For others, it’s an intricate piece showcasing the polyrhythmic and harmonic complexities that have become synonymous with Magma. While chart success was never the driving force for Magma, the impact of their work, including “Coltrane Sundia,” on the progressive rock and jazz fusion genres is indelible, influencing countless musicians and commanding a dedicated following that cherishes the band’s daring and original output.
# 8 – Om Zanka
Magma’s live album Inédits contained the great track “Om Zanka.” The Inédits album was released in 1977.
# 7 – Hortz Fur Dehn Stekehn West
Continuing our top 10 Magma songs list is the track “Hortz Fur Dehn Stekehn West,” This great piece of music was released on the Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh album. The landmark album was released in 1973. The Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh album is the band’s most famous record.
# 6 – Maahnt
After Magma broke up in 1977, they returned the following year in 1978 with the great album Attahk. It was the band’s eighth studio album. The track “Maahnt,” was one of our favorite Magma songs from the record.
# 5 – Zess (extrait)
Magma’s studio albums were amazing records full of virtuoso performances. However, their live albums added that extra improvisational spontaneity that fans of progressive rock music loved. The great track “Zess(extrait)” was a live performance from the Akt V: Concert Bobino 1981 album.
# 4 – The Last Seven Minutes
The Attahk album shows up once again on our top 10 Magma songs list with the amazing piece of music entitled “The Last Seven Minutes.” “The Last Seven Minutes,” a track from Magma’s 1977 album Attahk, encapsulates the band’s transition toward a somewhat more accessible sound without losing the essence of their complex and innovative style. This track represents the band’s continued exploration within the Zeuhl genre, blending jazz, classical, and rock elements into a distinctive fusion.
# 3 – Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh
“Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh,” often abbreviated as MDK, is the centerpiece of Magma’s 1973 album Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh. This seminal work by the French progressive rock band is a sprawling composition that exemplifies Magma’s unique Zeuhl genre, characterized by its rhythmic complexity, choral elements, and the distinctive use of the constructed Kobaïan language.
The recording of “Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh” would have been an elaborate process due to its intricate arrangements and the precision required to perform its complex rhythms and harmonies. Magma’s founder and leader, Christian Vander, is the driving force behind the piece, contributing not only with his dynamic drumming but also leading the choral and vocal arrangements that are so central to the piece. The lineup featured on the track included bassist Jannick Top and pianist Klaus Blasquiz, among other musicians, all contributing to the dense sonic landscape that is a trademark of Magma’s music.
From a critical standpoint, “Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh” is often celebrated as a masterpiece within the progressive rock and Zeuhl genres. Its musical narrative tells a story of struggle and rebellion, fitting into the larger mythos of Kobaïa that Vander created as a backdrop for much of Magma’s work. The track’s intensity and otherworldly atmosphere have captivated listeners and influenced countless musicians. While it may not have enjoyed mainstream chart success, its impact on the progressive rock community has been profound, cementing Magma’s reputation as musical innovators.
# 2 – Kobia
The first track to appear on Magma’s first album entitled Magma remains one of the best Magma songs ever released. The band’s personnel on the album included Klaus Blasquiz on vocals, François Cahen on piano, Alain “Paco” Charlery on trumpet and percussion Claude Engel –on guitars, flute and vocals, Teddy Lasry on soprano sax, and flute Francis Moze on electric bass and contrabass, Richard Raux n alto and tenor saxophones, and flute and Christian Vander on drums and vocals. The song “Kobia,” was written by Christian Vander.
# 1 – De futura
“De Futura” is one of the hallmark tracks from Magma’s acclaimed album Üdü Ẁüdü, released in 1976. The album’s title, like much of Magma’s work, is written in the band’s constructed language, Kobaïan, which adds to the otherworldly and distinct feel of their music. “De Futura” stands as a profound example of Magma’s dedication to a unique art form, an intense composition that spans over 18 minutes, filled with the power and intensity that fans of the band have come to expect.
The track’s recording would have been a significant undertaking, with long sessions to capture the complex interplay between the musicians. The lineup on Üdü Ẁüdü featured the creative force and founder of Magma, Christian Vander, on drums and vocals, among other talented musicians integral to producing the characteristic Magma sound. Each brought their expertise to the fore in this piece, from the haunting bass lines to the powerful brass sections, all underscored by Vander’s rhythmic drumming and impassioned vocalizations.
Critically, “De Futura” is often cited as a crowning achievement in the Zeuhl genre, pushing the boundaries of rock music into new territories. The song’s structure is unconventional, abandoning the verse-chorus format in favor of a thematic development more akin to classical music or jazz fusion. It is a composition that challenges the listener, demanding attention and rewarding it with a rich tapestry of sound that unfolds over the course of the track. Magma’s music, especially pieces like “De Futura,” typically does not find a place in conventional chart listings but rather enjoys the status of cult classics, revered by aficionados of progressive music for their complexity and emotive power. The song continues to be a touchstone for musicians and fans interested in music that defies easy categorization, remaining a vital part of Magma’s live performances and a testament to their enduring legacy in the world of avant-garde music.
Like the opening song on our Top 10 Magma Songs list, the track “De Futura,” will make you want to desperately search local record stores and the internet for Magma albums. This is incredible music that deserves to be heard. That’s why we do these lists.
Top 10 Magma Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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