Ariel Kalma

An Evolutionary Music: Original Recordings 1972-1979

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Given the glut of electronic, world, and experimental music we have at our disposal in the 21st century and the cynical way we (sub)categorize it, a compilation of '70s-era archival recordings by French composer, experimentalist, and multi-instrumentalist Ariel Kalma may not seem like such a big deal. Until you hear it, that is. Context is everything, and the music on this two-disc set is prophetic in light of what happened thereafter in several genres -- new age among them. With the exception of one track off a limited-edition cassette, none of the music on An Evolutionary Music: Original Recordings 1972-1979 has ever been issued before. Kalma made these privately in studios (including Pierre Henry's, where he worked for a time), at home, and in churches. He employed various saxophones, flutes, Revox tape recorders, and acoustic and electric keyboards along with hand-edited delays, wah-wah pedals, flangers, echo chambers, and a slew of microphones. His experiments with saxophones and drones on the nearly 11-minute "Ecstasy Musical Mind Yoga" are, far from the new age notion in the title, an exploration that walked between the previous experiments of Terry Riley and Charlemagne Palestine and the blurry atmospheric "fourth world" lyricism of Jon Hassell. "Chase Me Now," created from repetitive handmade percussion loops, recalls the "instrument" Suicide's Martin Rev used in the latter part of the decade -- until a staggered multi-tracked Farfisa screams beams atop the pulse like a spaceship sending an SOS to Earth. "Sister Echo" contains low-tuned hand drum loops, call-and-response flutes, and a female vocal singing a haunting, folklike, oddly metered round. "Rainy Day" contains a field recording of a thunderstorm atop layered saxophone lines playing in restrained modal patterns while ambient sonics and keyboards whisper in the backdrop. "Voltage Controlled Wave" is exactly what it sounds like: field-recorded ocean waves crashing toward shore, with pitch-controlled synths playing a loopy melody, bells, and a dynamic that evolves from pastoral and spacy to urgent and forceful. Spiny rhythmic loops create their own precursor to techno -- no exaggeration. The nearly 19-minute closer, "Yogini Breath," foreshadows Kalma's later evolution toward new age music and global fusion, but it doesn't fall into those tropes. It is as radical as anything else here: pitch-shifted vocal chants, polyrhythmic pulses, wafting organ, and monotonal synth lines piled on top of one another create their own fluid, elastic, spaced-out ebb and flow. As a whole, Kalma's An Evolutionary Music is a deeply soulful and sophisticated music that communicates interior -- as well as exterior -- spaces. It documents the possibilities created by an artist whose aesthetic life is dedicated to curiosity, observance, experimentation, and integration. Four decades on, this music not only resonates with relevance, it will continue to do so four decades from now because of Kalma's singular expansive vision.

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