When reading a Heavy Tome, it can be helpful to listen to the Right Kind of Music. What you need is an Auditory Lens with which to focus the mind’s ear to a pin sharp inward hearing of the words you are reading. I’m currently reading a Heavy Tome Indeed, and I do find that the words seep in more readily when gently pushed by a soundtrack that is either wholly instrumental or sung in some language other than English. Herewith: a glimpse of recent soundtraquerie.
Recently I received my copy of the new album by Monomyth
, entitled ‘Further’. I was prompt in pre-ordering and so it came autographed - it is rare that I am following along the career of a current band, so it is a nice experience to have that personal touch. I really enjoyed their first, self-titled album (definitely recommended). This is not an area of music I’m really knowledgeable about (they describe their stuff as ‘Instrumental Space Kraut Stoner Rock from the Netherlands’) but I would say it does manage to be more than just a session of ‘spot the influence’. Yes, the influences are tangible, but it’s not one of those ‘serious rock Jive Bunny’ experiences - it’s not ‘classic rock bingo’.
‘Further’ has - how to put it? - fewer ‘memorable tunes’ (!?) than its predecessor, and I feel as though this is the kind of music that, for full effect, really needs to be experienced live with the entire person rather than only via the ears whilst sitting sedately on a sofa, but I can already point to favourite moments. My favourite piece would have to be ’Spheres’, which builds its stubborn, jagged, geometric repetitions with Fripp-like patience ’n’ persistence
. This is a well-structured album, too. The best side-effect of the resurgence of the vinyl lp (if you ask me…) is the return of the 40-something-minute album. Here we have that classic format of side A: two tracks of roughly equal length; side B: short piece followed by Epic. The Epic in this case is ‘6EQUJ5’, in which you can definitely pick up echoes of that dogged ’n’ determined Düsseldorf Motorik Beat,
along with guitar sounds that occasionally remind my (biased?!) ears of 1980s Beefheart/Magic Band. The splendid artwork (by Maarten Donders
) is not best served by the limited canvas of CD packaging, but I bet it looks grand on the lp sleeve. Goes rather well as visual accompaniment to an inward voyage in search of the Prima Materia
I also received Magma
’s new… what… mini-album? EP?? It’s around twenty Earth-minutes in length, let’s put it that way, and contains a new version of an old familiar piece: ‘Rïah Sahïltaahk’. This originally appeared on their second album, ‘1001° Centigrades’. Apparently, Maestro Christian Vander was dissatisfied with the original arrangement. Having listened to both versions several times back to back, along with the live version that’s on the ‘Mythes et Legendes: Epok V’ DVD, I have to admit that the difference is not really that striking. The original version has its brass/woodwind element, whilst the new version has vibraphone and female backing vocals. The original has that slightly claustrophobic production common to lps from the early 1970s, whilst the new one sounds more clean and vibrant - well, no kidding. The lead vocals on the original are by the wondrous Klaus Blasquiz; Magma’s current male lead vocalist, Herve Aknin, sings in a very similar style.
There is nothing to complain about at all with this new version, although the live incarnation of it on the DVD has more Oomph and Zeuhl Energy than the studio effort. If you know the original, you'll kind of miss the brass on the new version. On the other hand, the added vocals on the new one, along with the presence of Philippe Bussonnet on bass guitar (a proper Zeuhl Knight as opposed to Francis Moze’s jazzier style on the original), add a little something. Argh - I dunno. I would say this new 'Rïah Sahïltaahk' is non-essential but well executed. If you particularly like this piece, or if you are the classic obsessed Magma aficionado who will buy anything they release, it’s a no-brainer; you want this. But if there is such a person as the mildly-interested consumer of Magma product (?!), he/she/they may happily pass on this one.
HOWEVER, let me say this: the packaging is very elegant (silver mirrored surface with black offset Zeuhl Griffe) and as always it is Joyful Indeed for any devout Zeuhl Kadett to be presented with a singalong Kobaïan libretto and a sizeable fragment of the Magma mythos (the story of Rïah Sahïltaahk is told in French; it’s a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of Hubris).
And that seems like a good place to terminate this travelogue of Musical Opinion Territory. Time perhaps to divert my attentions away from the potential Hubris of Album Reviewin’, back to the hoped-for Humility of Heavy Tome Readin’.
My thanks, as ever, for your company on this rrrramble. :-)