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I’ll sequester this fan-drivel under a cosy LJ-cut to spare your eyes!

Let’s have a quick aside now about the musicians and their antics: this was my first chance to hear Hervé Aknin, the new singer. I liked him a lot – he is very different from his predecessor (Antoine Paganotti): much closer in style to Klaus Blasquiz (although not really as emotional or operatic as Blasquiz – nor indeed as tiggerish onstage!). It will be very interesting to hear him on a studio recording. Anyway, his voice definitely suits the music.

The new keyboard player, Bruno Ruder, looks so young! I thought he was pretty good – perhaps a little workmanlike compared to Emmanuel Borghi, but good nonetheless. He was rather easy on the eye, too – good job, as he completely blocked my view of Philippe Bussonnet on the 13th! (This was the only flaw in being on the front row… My view of the Bass Guitar Love God was slightly better on the 14th, when I was in the second row.)

There is now a vibraphone player, too – Benoît Alziary. He was a bundle of energy at the left hand side of the stage – total enthusiasm, he never stopped moving. Occasionally he used a bow on his vibraphone to draw off long, ghostly sounds. I couldn’t always make out what he was playing amongst everyone else’s contributions (especially on the 13th, when Ruder’s Fender Rhodes seemed a bit louder than it should be at times), but it when I could, it was an extra layer of shimmering glacial sparkliness.

As mentioned, I couldn’t really see Bussonnet on the 13th, because he was hiding behind Bruno Ruder. ;-) But I could hear him perfectly! It would have been wonderful to have had some kind of bass solo at some point – but it was not to be. :-( I’d love to go to Le Triton some time to see/hear One Shot in action (I bet that would be like a BASS GUITAR OVERDOSE!). James MacGaw seemed equally restrained and there weren’t many pyrotechnics from him either. I guess it depends on the repertoire with these things, but I’d have liked to have seen these two in a more exuberant setting! Oh well, one day perhaps!

When it comes to the female vocalists, I was COMPLETELY floored by Stella Vander. Her technique is amazing. And such restraint – never over-the-top, always entirely tasteful. She was much more to the fore in this live setting than she tends to be on recordings. In fact, speaking about the voices generally, the strongest impression that these concerts left me with was the notion that the vocals are maybe the most important aspect in Magma. The subtlety and power of the singing was remarkable – at times it felt like there were twenty people singing, not three or four. Having mentioned everyone else I must also mention Isabelle Feuillebois. She takes more of a backing singer rôle – one of the vital ingredients in the vocal alchemy.

Ok, so you might have noticed I haven’t said anything about Christian Vander’s drumming yet! Suffice to say that it was thrilling to be in the room with it at long last. In the first two pieces (from what I can remember! If anyone reading this was there, you might have had a different impression!), the style seemed quite pared down, in a way. More of a core heartbeat – not so much in the way of flamboyant flourishes. This suited those pieces perfectly – there was something simple, primitive and stylised about the first (new) piece especially, and in the second, the vocals were the main event. In ‘Emëhntëht-Rê’ there was more room for ostentation, but never to excess. I really like that about Vander – you never get bored while he goes off on some inappropriately elaborate tangent. Maybe it’s because generally speaking it’s his music that’s being played – whatever he does serves the aims of the composition as a whole, rather than drawing attention to him at the expense of coherence and flow.

Now, here was the most amazing thing – if I can manage to explain it clearly (…here goes nothing!). I’ve always liked to think of Magma as more like one enormous multifarious juggernaut of a giant musical instrument than a ‘band’ as such, and on those two evenings, it really did feel like that. The most geniuslike thing about the musicians in Magma is how they work together – no-one shows off too much or impinges on anyone else’s musical territory – it all melds and merges together into… one thing. At times I was sitting there, listening, unable to work out how they were doing what they were doing. It wasn’t possible, when confronted with it in the flesh, to unpick one or other element from the larger tapestry and mentally focus on it whilst ignoring everything else. I love how manipulative this music is – how knowingly controlling it can be. This effect is definitely magnified in a live setting, and especially when you’re listening to an unfamiliar piece of music. It’s deliciously disorientating, sometimes truly moving.

But we’re not at an end yet – are you still with me?!

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This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

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