I feel compelled to attempt some sort of review of this album as I have just obtained the CD to replace the Vinyl LP I purchased back in 1974.
I'm afraid the vinyl, along with others from my late school days, has been confined to the loft for some 20 years and this album has only played over in my mind a few times in the period since. I've been buying CDs for a few years to replace my favourites and this long overdue purchase has been an absolute pleasure to hear again.
Where to start in describing this album? I'm afraid I am not going to try in detail, as there are some excellent reviews below (those taken from Amazon U.S.). One or two of them really take you inside the main track 'Kohntarkosz' and give a good picture of what it is all about. Magma were / are something of a one off. I've tried to think of any similar bands and I cannot, all I would say is that there are moments that bring to mind (for me) groups like Can, Amon Duul and Nektar. These are only moments, in essence it is 100% Magma which is a melange of jazz fusion, prog, classical and world music, or more appropriately, out of this world music.
The 2 part Kohntarkosz is the centrepiece. By the second half of part 2 you will either be in your chair transfixed, mesmerised and possibly slightly scared, or bouncing around the room like a lunatic to the beat / chant.... and there is the other thing, the beat is not really the beat, half the time the music seems to be out of sync with itself ( on purpose of course ). Earlier in this piece you will hear sections with gently soaring angelic voices and swirling instrumentation, that wouldn't go amiss as a backing track to a star trek movie, approaching the forbidden planet etc.
The third track 'Ork Alarm' is a rather strident piece with lots of drums and cello laying the foundations. The vocals are rhythmic, almost American Indian chant, leading to a rather scary crescendo where an alien force seems to be sweeping across the planet, taking all before it. I was listening to this in the dark with my headphones on and was being tapped on the shoulder from behind by my better half. I almost performed a backward somersault in the chair, so be warned. The final short track Coltrane Sundia is a quiet and beautiful piano led piece, lightly jazzy but letting you down gently at the end of the album. It is reminiscent for me to the last track of Can's Tago Mago album, where the sonic assault and challenges you have had during the rest of album need to be balanced with something very pleasant and palatable.
On practical issues, the CD I bought was the 2009 reissue. This comes in Digipak format, so as such is more prone to damage than a regular jewel cased CD unless of course you take special care of it. There is a very good booklet in French and English, giving a lot of background information. The CD sits better musically that the vinyl LP, Kohntarkosz parts 1 & 11 follow each other, rather than being the first track on either side of the vinyl LP. At 40 minutes ish long it is short by modern day CD standards, but the 2009 issue is merely the original 1974 release with the tracks in a better order as explained above. I believe there is another CD release with another version of Kohntarkosz as a bonus track. I personally think that one is ample!
So ........ complex, thought provoking, exciting and sometimes a little scary.
Five stars from me, without hesitation.
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