- Speaking in tongues: Magma songwriter and drummer Christian Vander invented his own language before Sigur Rós or Ruins were even born.
One of the biggest joys of writing a music column is when I get the opportunity to clue local music fans in to unusual upcoming shows, hopefully at least in part facilitating an opportunity they might otherwise never experience. On March 22 at Denver's Gothic Theater, there is, indeed, a rare opportunity to catch a singular musical entity.
Imagine an eight-piece band, led by an utterly virtuosic and strange drummer, who meander from brooding, ominous and violent textures to more playful jazz-fusion material, all sung in the band's own constructed language. If that last detail reminds you of the Icelandic post-rock ensemble Sigur Rós, you're not wrong, though this band in question is French, tours America far less often, and began doing all this a quarter-century earlier.
French psychedelic/progressive rock act Magma has long built a reputation for being adventurous and very out-there, even in the spacey and frequently spaced-out realm of prog rock. The invented language, "Kobaïan," certainly sets them apart, but it's only a fraction of what makes Magma unique and strange.
The frequently apocalyptic outlook and intergalactic refugee themes dreamed up by drummer/group leader Christian Vander are backed by complex music that's equally steeped in free jazz, chaotic hard rock, the call-and-response vocals of African-American spirituals, and the choral music of Carl Orff (whose bombastic opening to his cantata Carmina Burana has been appropriated as pop culture shorthand for anything excessively dramatic). The resulting mix actually caught on in France in the mid-'70s and later among avant-garde groups in Japan, and was emulated often enough to earn its own genre name, "Zeuhl."
If this description has made your eyes glaze over, I honestly don't hold that against you. However, if nothing else, the price of admission to see Magma live will likely be satisfied by watching the utterly manic yet emotional drumming that Vander employs during these extraterrestrial rock hymns — he would have been an excellent candidate to pull off Frank Zappa's most intense compositions. In addition, the near-choral vocals, led by Stella Vander, the longtime Magma vocalist who's also Christian's wife, are a wonderfully evocative anomaly in rock music as a whole.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Magma only has a cult following in America despite their longevity, and their North American appearances this year only amount to 14 dates, so this will probably be your last chance to catch them in Colorado for a while. Perhaps, in fact, the last time before the Earth is destroyed and we have to take refuge on the distant planet of Kobaïa? Look, folks, Trump is getting a great turnout; don't get too comfortable.
With that, a look at some notable musical happenings this week:
Thursday, March 17, is grindcore night at Flux Capacitor, starring the Minneapolis-based Agitate and Deterioration along with Denver's Nephrectomy, Full Bore and Parasitic Death.
Also on March 17, popular Detroit punk/psychobilly trio Koffin Kats hit the Zodiac, joined by local favorites The A-Holes in a somewhat rare appearance of their own.
On Friday, March 18, Sunshine Studios is celebrating its eighth "birthday" as a venue with free food, drinks, and a show featuring LA metal outfit Butcher Babies, Pueblo's Seven Days Lost, and more.
Rounding out a busy March 18, Houston-based emcee Kirko Bangz plays Rawkus, Nashville blues-rockers SIMO and Ontario alt-rock band The Glorious Sons play the Black Sheep, and an array of local metalcore notables, including Worth the Violence, Six Feet of Anger, Grindscape and Beatgrinder, appear at Peak 31.
And, finally, in one of the strangest choices of venues I've seen in a while, Maynard James Keenan's chameleonic post-industrial band Puscifer (see interview, p. 45) play the Pikes Peak Center on Sunday, March 20.
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