Opéra De Reims 1976
101. De Futura (24:32)
102. Sons et Chorus de Batterie (26:38)
201. Köhntarkösz (33:31)
202. Theusz Hamtaahk (33:34)
301. Mëkanïk Dëstruktï? Kömmandöh (42:29)
- Klaus Blasquiz / vocals, percussion
- Stella Vander / vocals
- Didier Lockwood / violin
- Gabriel Federow guitar
- Patrick Gauthier / keyboards
- Benoît Widemann / keyboards
- Benard Paganotti / bass
- Christian Vander / drums, vocals
What a show this must have been to attend. Magma, just slightly after their prime (speaking in studio album terms), playing almost every epic they could choose to play, and with a stellar lineup (plus a Vander drum solo for the fun of it). The moment I saw the track list I knew I wanted to purchase this album. And there are no regrets at all. Even though this album is more than two and a half hours long it still seems to short and honestly time just melts away when this baby is transporting you to the wonderful land of Kobaia. I wish I was alive (and in Reims...) in 1976.
The show begins with Top's magnum opus De Futura. An eerie keyboard drone kicks off the disc, perhaps while the band makes their way to the stage (you can hear intermittent clapping at a couple of points during the opening). But before long that famous bass riff kicks in and De Futura is off and running. Perhaps running isn't the right word. This version is generally slower but more intense than its studio counterpart. No complaints though still an excellent version of the song with some excellent keyboard parts (of all things!) Next up is Sons Et Chorus De Batterie. This song begins with some fairly avant/free jamming before the stage empties (I assume) for Vander's drum solo. Quite a lengthy solo where Vander focuses on each part of the set (cymbals, toms, snare) and ends the piece by singing along to his ferocious poundings. For most I assume this would be the low point of the set, but Vander is a master of his instrument, and even though its a bit self indulgent its a fun listen. This is followed by disc two and a stunning version of Köhntarkösz. Blasphemous as this may seem, Köhntarkösz is easily my least favorite studio album by Magma. But this version is much better. Its energetic, exciting, and most importantly captivating. Vander's drums sound amazing on this recording and his playing is really brought to the forefront, which is one reason I think this version stand out. Not a dull moment to be found. Theusz Hamtaahk follows. This version seems a bit more upbeat (and perhaps faster) than the version on Retrospektiw I-II but is more captivating and hypotic (not to take anything away from the other version of course). This is perhaps my favorite track on the disc and I can't help but joining the chanting of Theusz Hamtaahk when that part comes up in the song. Magic! Finally, disc three concludes the set with the core of Zeuhl music, Mëkanïk Dëstruktï? Kömmandöh. This is a spirited rendition with an extended bass solo section that approaches the experimental aspects found in the beginning of Sons Et Chorus De Batterie. For me, its very intriguing to see this side of Magma, who are usually very strictly composed. Unfortunately, this song is where my biggest complaint of the album arises. This is what is printed in the liner notes, "Final coupe, non existant sur la bande.". Now I don't speak French, but it would seem to be saying the last five minutes of the song aren't available (for some reason). Perhaps this was to accommodate vinyl or the tape ran out or something. Now the song ends well, with a quick keyboard "interlude", however the explosive ending is absent. A shame for sure, but the song still feels very accomplished (even without the expected climax). But that is easily the biggest complaint I have with this set. The sound quality is as good as can be expected for this time period, and on par with the better sounded studio discs of the time (read: non Udu Wudu works). There are a couple instances where the mixing is slightly off and the guitar or keyboard is significantly louder than anything else, but this is quickly resolved and really doesn't detract from the overall experience.
All and all, this 3 CD set is a real winner. For Magma fans this is an obvious buy. The quality of the recordings certainly justifies the slightly high price tag. Even for the casual fan, Opera De Reims stands as a beacon in the large ocean of Magma live recordings. Perhaps only second to the wonderful Retrospektiw I-II in terms of live albums by Magma, this is an album I will be spinning til I break the discs.