Once in a blue moon a prophet comes along. Most musical visionairies seem to have fallen out of time, some of them even out of space. Whether they appear as cosmic messengers transmitting the knowledge of a distant future or as descendants of old tribes handing down ancient wisdom, many moons have to pass until their oracular qualities become fully evident.
Moondog and Sun Ra are such enigmatic figures. Though by far not as prominent and eccentric as these two, Ariel Kalma is a musical prophet in his own right. From the early seventies onward, the Parisian composer anticipated sounds which would later re-emerge in the New Age movement. The increasing interest in his obscure output slowly brings to surface his comprehensive work.
Kalma began his career in a musical field diametrically opposed to his later work, accompanying superstar Adamo on saxophone and flute. Frustrated by the limitations of pop and rock, he found a soul mate in Baden Powell, joining the Brazilian guitar virtuoso on tour. Later, Kalma started experimenting with reel-to-reel tape machines in his home studio, investigating techniques of loops, echo and delay, before a trip to India deepened his interest in improvised drones.
After years of recording for his personal archive only, Kalma got encouraged by the French synth pioneer Richard Pinhas to release his first album. In 1975, upon his return from India, he recorded his debut Le Temps des Moissons, which he personally distributed on his moped to record stores and radio stations. As soon as radio DJ Daniel Caux started playing the record on his late night show, the 1000 copies sold out quickly and a second edition got pressed.
On the title track, which covers the whole A-side of the LP, Kalma seems to recollect memories of India on wind instruments, while the B-side appears like a mental journey into the Sahara. Kalma’s deeply spiritual minimal music is a quiet counterpart to the feverish meditations of Terry Riley, who served as one of his inspirations. The original vinyl is a pricey affair, but luckily Wah Wah Records reissued the album earlier this year, including two bonus tracks.
Besides the renowned reissue specialists from Barcelona, other labels have been discovering Ariel Kalma’s work too. The Italian label Black Sweat Records started its series of re-releases in 2013 with a reissue of Kalma’s second album. Osmose was originally released in 1978 and is incorporating field recordings by Richard Tinti made in the rainforest of Borneo.
Following the reissue of Osmose, Black Sweat Records recently made the 1982 tape release Open Like A Flute available on vinyl. The reissues of his early albums give Kalma some of the recognition he deserves, though he’s still far from being a houshold name. This might change someday, as his work proofs to be more comprehensive as it seems at first glance.
End of last year, Kalma published material from his personal archive for the first time. An Evolutionary Music, a double LP released on RVNG Intl. makes some of his home recordings available, capturing improvisations with a wide array of instruments, synthesizers, tape recorders and drum machines. A short documentary gives an introduction to the collection of recordings from 1972 to 1979:
“If we shut up, we start hearing things” – this statement summarizes Kalma’s intuitive quest for cosmic harmonies within and around himself. He regularly recorded his meditative jams in his home studio, though he’d sometimes forget to press play, as he humourosly mentioned in an interview with The Quietus. Nevertheless, there seem to be more treasures hidden in his personal archive. The extensive booklet of An Evolutionary Music raises expectations for a second volume.
Though Kalma didn’t have an ego big enough to make an impact on the music scene in his heyday, in retrospective his work seems all the more significant. One of the gems still waiting to be rediscovered is his sole library record Interference. Barimpa, a track featured on our Cosmic Library mix, gives an impression of how futuristic this record from 1980 still sounds today.
While Kalma’s back catalogue is growing steadily, he continues to record new material. Only recently, he contributed to volume 12 of FRKWYS, a series of RVNG Intl., which brings together musicians of different generations. The collaboration with Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (Lichens, Om) resulted in six new songs, which take the evolutionary music of Ariel Kalma to the next level.