Magma Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh

[A&M; 1973]

Styles: avant-prog, frog-prog, jazz fusion, symphonic rock
Others: Soft Machine, The Art Bears, Gong, Carl Orff, Béla Bartók

Here's what the Encyclopedia Galactica has to say about Kobaïan. It says that Kobaïan is a language of cosmic revelation developed thousands of years in Earth's future by inter-galactic refugees fleeing the spiritual depravity of the space age.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy also mentions Kobaïan. It says that if you are unfortunate enough to visit Kobaïa don't bother asking for the toilet. Or ordering a drink. And don't even think about picking up a date. Kobaïan has no phrases for these distractions. It does, however, have over forty words for war.

Tiny Mix Tapes elaborates upon the matter. It says that Kobaïa's mythology is revealed in a series of movements spanning ten albums orchestrated by French prog-rockers Magma. Presented as pan-historical space-opera sung in Kobaïan, the story is as old as time: persecuted spiritualists flee home planet, colonize alien world under principles of transcendental harmony, reestablish communications with Earth only to be betrayed by their now distant Earth-cousins. The Intergalactic death ray is brandished, and Kobaïa breaks ties with Earth for centuries. Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh introduces an unrealized song cycle of epic proportions titled "Theusz Hamtaahk" (trans: Time of Hatred) which would have explained the eons between initial contact and universal enlightenment over the course of nine albums. Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh is the final movement of the "Theusz Hamtaahk" and depicts the humanities' liberation from the mortal coil through commune with the supreme entity Kreuhn Kohrman. After the first four albums the story of Kobaïa becomes nebulous, veering away from the fictitious timeline and into conceptual parables that vary in theme. Of course, none of this can be garnered from the lyrics, which explode from the chorus in the Wagnerian violence of Kobaïan. One must pick through the French liner notes for clues as to the album's explication, but clearly the intent of Magma front man Christian Vander was to avoid concrete artifice and nourish the cosmic mysteries of the '70s.

Ostensibly, Kobaïan dissuades the textualist from over-analyzing the universal message of Magma's movements. The themes of spiritual transcendence are described in Vander's umbral Esperanto with enormous success, or at least in contrast to the emotional content conveyed in Italian and German operas whose tropes concern sex, murder and motherhood. Kobaïan's Franco-Germanic roots are obvious in the song titles if not in the lyrics themselves. The opening of MDK stages soldiers marching against the sectarians, denouncing the visionaries in a dark, gothic chant that erupts into the shrill protests of the believers. The aural battle concludes as the soldiers are forced to leave their corporal state and the gothic tones are replaced by chorus of celestial fury and then an ethereal prostration before the Universal. MDK favors the operatic chants above the prog guitar heroics, utilizing percussion and glistening horns to represent the alien orchestra. The base lines are functional and straight forward on MDK, though other Magma records take on a jazzier motif. There are chorographical cues which force a theatrical slant to the album, and I can imagine nothing finer than landscapes of spray-painted cardboard behind a robed chorus clutching enormous medallions and chanting the sacred words of Nebehr Gudahht. But I used to play a lot of AD&D.

Many other subtleties of the record defy delineation. You can access unofficial Kobaïan lexicons online, and many words have been translated by Vander in the course of Magma's career, but keep in mind that the intention was to escape semantics.

Magma suffered from line-up changes on nearly every album, a fact which distinguishes the various movements from one another by scope and sound. Many of the former members borrowed from Vander unique vision in their proceeding projects, so much so that a new genre was birthed upon the French music scene. Called "Zeuhl" after the Kobaïan word for celestial, the new sound incorporates the fusion techniques of Magma and has gained popularity in Japanese rock circuits (notably Ruins.) These derivatives are a testament to the extraordinary scope of Magma's sound.

1. Hortz Fur Dehn Stekehn West
2. Ima Suri Dondai
3. Kobaia Is de Hundin
4. Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanik
5. Nebehr Gudahtt
6. Mekanik Kommandoh
7. Kreuhn Kohrmahn Iss de Hundin
8. M.D.K