By MATT CARTER // Drummer Christian Vander has maintained the band’s vision from its very inception in 1969.
If you were at last year’s Magma concert, you may remember the moment right before the conclusion when long-time member Stella Vander promised, “We will be back.” And in hearing that, it was as if those were words were uttered by an extraterrestrial. After all, the audience at Aladdin Theater had just spent an hour and some change studying the band, knowing nothing of the language they spoke, and marveling at a virtuosity not possessed by most humans.
While we sat in our seats, Magma wandered the celestial planes of music like cautious demigods, sharing with us a small demonstration of their experiences beyond. When Stella Vander acknowledged throughout the set how fond the band was of Portland, it was again as if an interstellar traveler had acknowledged a small fragment of our Milk Way. Foreign accents really have a way of making Americans feel humble; if not underlying one as distant in language, but maybe to our solar system as well
Making good on their word, the band will be playing Wonder Ballroom on March 19th. As much as Portland seems an unlikely place for the French band to acknowledge their fan base — which has been loyal since the early 1970’s — somehow our fair city has again made the cut.
The move to a larger capacity venue means this sure to sell-out performance will make new fans of an even younger generation when exposed to lengthy songs of Sci-fi proselytizing. And although the lyrics are of an imaginary language called Kobaïan, the intent is never lost. The past has shown that Magma fans prefer the band’s lyrical language, as evidenced by 1985’s “Merci” which had the most lyrics in English and was a “less successful” release compared to others.
Following “Merci”, the band didn’t release another studio album for nearly 20 years; perhaps it was the regret of using more processed sounds, or the gratuitous use of saxophone that came with most music of that time. During their absence, several live albums and one scant E.P. trickled out, furthering their cult following and making known the legendary reputation of their performances.
Members have shifted in and out over the years, but drummer Christian Vander has maintained the band’s vision from its very inception. Over the 20 year hiatus members of Magma have gone on to do other music, sometimes under the umbrella of Magma’s self-classified genre of Zeuhl. They returned with “K. A. (Kohntarkosz Anteria)” in 2004, reforming and effectively picking up right where the Vander’s left off in 1973, along with some new blood rising to the occasion.
Ready to deliver an equally spellbinding performance is Helen Money (Alison Chesley). Known for playing atmospheric post-rock and noise with the less common cello, it’s easy to see why Chesley has earned the tag of doom-cellist. Her solo album "Arriving Angels" even features tracks with Neurosis drummer Jason Roeder, which is why it’s no surprise her sound has enticed everyone from Anthrax to Russian Circles. Being that last year’s show was sans opening band, this show is a meeting of opposing musical forces - both light and dark - and tickets will surely go fast.