MAGMA – Zëss

Seventh 2019

An ode to the end of time – salvaged from the grip of history and tossed into the future to mark one golden jubilee.


Symphonic grandeur has been part of this group’s scope ever since “Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh” – where Christian Vander’s clique refined their Zeuhl formula and first wrapped their interplanetary oratorio in massed brass – only the strings-cushioned “Zëss” takes it all to a different extreme. Started in the mid-’70s and taken to the stage, past a proper studio phase, exactly four decades ago, the seven-section piece was said to last for up to five hours at one point, yet while less audacious acts would exert themselves to present such an album as a multi-disc, multimedia-enhanced experience, the French veterans opted for concentrated blast of the sci-fi extravaganza. The result, clocking in at 38 minutes and featuring The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, is one of the most impressive in the collective’s canon.

As a way to celebrate their 50th anniversary, “Zëss” – meaning “Nothingness” – is perfect in its mix of Gallic emotionality and Kobaïan cool, as Vander provides translation of every alien title and narrates the story in his native language in “Da Zeuhl Wortz Dëhm Wrëhntt” to propel recurrent tunes through variously arranged time and space. Not for nothing this trip is tethered to a specific, motorik groove: having abdicated his drum stool in an unprecedented move and let Morgan Ågren lead the rhythm, Christian channels cantata-like voices of “Wöhm Dëhm Zeuhl Stadium” into spiritual anthem which sets the scene for the treaty on our mortal coil and the need to be thankful for the existence.

Piano chords ripple across the aural tapestry until scat is scattered on “Dï Wööhr Spracer” before the drama of “Streüm Ündëts” takes off in a blinding swirl of woodwind and bows and culminates in “Zëss Mahntëhr Kantöhm” – a chorale-cum-MOR melodious madness floating towards “Zï Ïss Wöss Stëhëm” and invoking disco bliss ‘n’ blitz. After that, there’s only celestial mantra “Dümgëhl Blaö” left to bring this long-gestating project to a close – to the gestalt of here and now. Should “Zëss” become a coda of MAGMA’s flow, it’s a worthy finale of their 50-years arc.


August 21, 2019

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