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Magma: Félicité Thösz

As one of the longest lasting bands in the genre (almost 45 years thus far), French ensemble Magma has certainly earned a lot of recognition throughout their career. And with just one listen of their newest release, Félicité Thösz, it's easy to hear why. Their blend of jazz, classical, avant-garde, choral, and progressive rock is unique, to say the least, and for the most part, it's intriguing and refreshing. Although the music can arguably get a bit repetitive by the end, Félicité Thösz is sure to please fans, as well as anyone looking for a distinctive, affective, and colorful experience.

Founded in 1969 by classically trained drummer Christian Vanderv (who, surprisingly or not, is still in the group), Magma has spent its career combining spirituality, ecology, and commentary on the human condition with music. Many of their works center on tales of an ancient tribe, the Kobaďans, and their connection to Earth and fate (in fact, Vanderv even invented a new language, Kobaďan, in which most of the lyrics are sung). In addition, Magma is credited with pioneering the subgenre Zeuhl, a classification that has since been applied to several other French and Japanese artists. Clearly, Magma has had a notable influence in music over the last few decades, and Félicité Thösz is a fine addition to their catalogue.

The album is essentially broken into two parts: "Félicité Thösz" (a thirty minute piece) and "Les Hommes Sont Venus." The title track, which is broken into ten tracks, is brilliant, if not a bit tiresome by its conclusion. Operatic singers (both male and female) express a wide range of emotions over intricate piano arrangements, chaotic percussion, and an eclectic array of ancillary instruments, such as guitar, glockenspiel, clavier, and vibraphone. While the entire suite is intriguing throughout, certain moments, such as the opening foreboding chants, the sorrowful piano melody in "Dzoď," the hypnotic vocal melody in "Tëha," the rhythmically complex construction of "Tsaď !" and the hectic, intricate conclusion, stand out. Also, the persistent dynamic shifts and interplay between the vocalists makes the whole thing quite remarkable (although, again, it may be a bit off-putting for some due to its eccentricity and inaccessible lyrics). As for "Les Hommes Sont Venus," well, it doesn't fare as well because it really never changes; the same percussion and chant is used throughout, and although certain instruments flourish here and there, they don't really revitalize anything. The song would be much more interesting if its duration were, say, a tenth of what it is. It feels like a simple coda that was extended way too long.

Félicité Thösz is certainly a unique experience, and it's definitely a fine representation of what's made (and continues to make) Magma such a revered group within the genre. Although it's not as approachable as some may prefer, its individuality is what makes it exceptional. Clearly, Magma creates a specialized sound, so their work is essentially a love-it-or-hate-it affair. In any case, Félicité Thösz is fairly remarkable overall.


1. Félicité Thösz : 01 - Ëkmah
2. Félicité Thösz : 02 - Ëlss
3. Félicité Thösz : 03 - Dzoď
4. Félicité Thösz : 04 - Nüms
5. Félicité Thösz : 05 - Tëha
6. Félicité Thösz : 06 - Waahrz
7. Félicité Thösz : 07 - Dühl
8. Félicité Thösz : 08 - Tsaď !
9. Félicité Thösz : 09 - Öhst
10. Félicité Thösz : 10 - Zahrr
11. Les Hommes Sont Venus

Added: November 12th 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Score:
Related Link: Band @ Seventh Records
Hits: 1377
Language: english

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