Review Summary: A masterful return.
The progenitors of Zeuhl ended a decades-long silence when they resurfaced in 2004 and surprised devotees and disparagers with Köhntarkösz Anteria
). The crown jewel of the Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré trilogy, which also includes 1974’s Köhntarkösz
and 2009’s Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré
, the record shows Magma at their apex, brandishing their original blend of hypnotic jazz fusion, otherworldly, frenzied, Orffian choral chants, Bandleader Christian Vander’s signature serpentine drum work, and unrelenting musical tension.
The first fragments of this continuous three-piece suite were conceived in 1973-1974 and intended to serve as the harbinger of the aforementioned compositional sequence. They appeared in bits and pieces on the mid-70s release Inédits
, but were never fully realized. The trilogy slipped into antiquity with only its Köhntarkösz
portion ultimately seeing the light of day. Who could have guessed that Vander's risky decision to dust off and revive this piece more than 30 years later would pay off in almost every conceivable way?
All of the band’s greatest qualities intermingle on K.A.
. The rhythmically inventive jazz fusion elements a la Köhntarkösz
-era Magma ring clearly as they filter though the lyrical intergalactic atmospherics of Vander’s modern-day songwriting lens. It’s a melding of the primitive and the celestial, a music born at the line where earth and sky meet. Couple this sensation with outstanding recording quality and the result is one of the band’s stoutest, most rapturous opuses.
Standout moments abound and include when the rhythm section joins the odd-time vocal theme at the start of Part I and when the furious bass line punctuating Part II’s quirky vocal refrain hits full tilt. Despite its consistent nature, the piece’s highlight would have to be the indelibly infectious 7/4 groove driving the extended jam at the start of Part III. Analog synthesizer chords bounce atop churning drum beats and are steadily built upon by guitar, bass, and a five-member chorus until the piece erupts with a coda resembling a maniacal, extraterrestrial relative of Beethoven’s “Hallelujah chorus”. The finale is a wonder all its own.
As a genre, Zeuhl can be a tough nut to crack, but the effort can be rewarding. For those who are willing to be carried by alien grooves and perhaps indulge in a little madness, K.A.
bears that reward. As a document of a band transcending their former selves and doing so without sacrificing an ounce of their power, it stands as one of progressive rock’s finest "comeback" albums, one that is sure to stand the test of time.