Magma are a French prog-rock band formed in the 1969 by classical drummer, Christian Vander. Prog-rock is often cast as nerdy due to content hailing from anywhere in outer-space to middle earth, lorded over by technically proficient players and revered by, well, various nerdy sorts. But really, what is a nerd and who cares? I’ve been called a lot of things and it hasn’t made any less or any more of me. That said, Vander claimed his inspiration for forming the band was a vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future (which was bleak). The first album was the story of humans fleeing a doomed earth to settle on the planet, Kobaia. Conflict arises between Kobaians and the earth refugees. Vander created a phonetic language, Kobaian, which is sung to express the story. The venue, Le Poisson Rouge, is still one of my favorite surviving NYC venues. It always sounds good and the sight-lines are excellent, and they get interesting acts (I wrote here about Califone and Iggy Pop). The opener was a solo cellist who goes by Helen Money though her name is Alison Chelsey. She created pieces with her cello and effects pedals which were cinematic and/or classical and occasionally piercing. She’s billed as a doom-cellist on her website but that’s a little limited according to what I heard. The place was packed. I’m pretty sure I spotted Greg Saunier, the drummer from Deerhoof, in the crowd. When Magma took the stage and got started I understood completely why Saunier was there. This drummer, Christian Vander, is amazing!! This band, Magma, are incredible!! Not wonky, nerdy, technical stuff but vocally and drum driven rock. It was wild, the guitar, bass, and keyboards (usual prog-rock suspects) served almost as ornamentation to the vocals and drums. There were interesting stops and great builds in the music and they had soul! The most important thing, as with most vocal performances, was the telling of the story which they did with the acumen of classically trained actors. One male lead vocalist in addition to Christian Vander and two females. The concert was like being at a modern classical music concert in the length of the pieces and intensity of the music. It was alternately meditative and hypnotic. Drums and voices….it doesn’t get much more primitive than that and yet those parts were both so expertly handled that it elevated the music as a whole. My first rock concert was arguably one of the best prog-rock bands ever, Yes, at Madison Square Garden. Compared to Magma Yes are traditional. It was really a one of a kind concert.
Here’s a taste (with only one of the women) They played this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjYnuhIlnIU
Thursday April 14th @ Branded Saloon 603 Vanderbilt Ave. Brooklyn, NY Philip Lynch (solo) 7PM, Harry Graff Kimball (solo) 8PM, Los Chinches 8:30PM
Sunday April 17th @ An Beal Bocht 445 West 238th Street Bronx, NY Rob McMahon 8PM, Philip Lynch 9PM
Friday April 22nd At The Start / At Long Last will be widely available on familiar digital platforms