An Evolutionary Music

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.

Ariel Kalma

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.

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Available on VHS

Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti contributed their share to the evolution of electronic music. With Throbbing Gristle they laid the foundation for industrial, as Chris & Cosey they pushed dark wave towards techno, while under the moniker CTI they were striving into a more ethereal direction. The Creative Technology Institute released pioneering ambient works, collaborating with avantgarde icons as Robert Wyatt, John Lacey and Coil.

CTI

The first release of CTI was the audiovisual experiment Elemental 7, which was published in 1984 on VHS and LP. The album is dominated by spooky synth washes, eerie drones and creepy samples. The abstract textures get more concrete in Dancing Ghosts, a dark club track, making this record DJ friendly for ten minutes. But this is about as Chris & Cosey as it gets. Thereafter, the music is falling back into nightmarish drowsiness, before we finally awake to mechanical noise.

New Atlantis

«…We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds, and their generation. We have harmonies which you have not, of quarter-sounds, and lesser slides 21 of sounds. Diverse instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have, together with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet. We represent small sounds as great and deep; likewise great sounds extenuate 22 and sharp; we make diverse tremblings and warblings of sounds, which in their original 23 are entire. We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices and notes of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which set to the ear do further the hearing greatly. We have also diverse strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and as it were tossing it: and some that give back the voice louder than it came, some shriller, and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances…»

Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis, 1624

Banjo Magic

Way up in the Appalachian mountains, the roots of folk music run deep. Over 200 years ago, settlers brought British and Irish ballads from the old world into the new, reshaping them into songs which reflect the difficulties of finding a new life in the endless wilderness streching out behind the east coast.

As a vast array of clips on YouTube illustrates, the Appalachian ballads are still being passed on from generation to generation. Young folks are keeping the tradition of their ancestors alive, picking the banjo on the porch like their grand parents did, singing ancient mournings of timeless significance.

Clifton Hicks was raised in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and is currently living in Asheville, North Carolina. Four albums and dozens of videos demonstrate his incredible picking skills and his wide knowledge of Appalachian ballads. Interestingly, his interpretation of The Cuckoo, a British folk song popularized in the US by the clawhammer banjo legend Clarence Ashley, is strikingly different from the many variations known of this tune.


Elizabeth Laprelle of Cedar Springs, Virginia, has been performing folk songs since she was eleven. She’s a virtous singer and banjo player with a major degree in Southern Appalachian Traditional Performance. Recently, she released the second album of her collaboration project Anna & Elizabeth. Laprelle’s sublime version of The House Carpenter makes you forget about the background noise in this clip:


Will Rowan from New England plays the banjo and the lyre. He’s a member of Windborne, a quartet performing folk songs from all over the world. His interpretation of Rain And Snow, an archetypical Appalachian murder ballad, follows in the footsteps of the version recorded by the late great Obray Ramsey.

Full Moon Mix: Holiday On The Moon

While the lunar eclipse darkens some parts of this world, the full moon shines in full force above these headquarters tonight. To celebrate this heavenly body that gave our lagoon its name, this mix collects some favourite songs about that lucky old moon. Mixing cosmic synth, moonshine folk and lunar kraut, the genre moongaze consolidates.

1. Axxess – Traditional Moon Dance (Lamborghini Records, 1983)
2. Optic Eye – Crystal Moon (Mystic Stones, 1992)
3. Castanets – Lucky Old Moon (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2009)
4. Bill Staines – Kentucky Moonshiner (Evolution Records, 1971)
5. King Crimson – Moonchild (Island Records, 1969)
6. Espers – Moon Eclipses The Sun (Drag City, 2006)
7. Arthur Russell – This Is How We Walk On The Moon (Point Music, 1994)
8. Can – Moonshake (United Artists Records 1973)
9. Love And Rockets – Holiday On The Moon (Beggars Banquet, 1986)

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Holiday On The Moon

The Joy of Repetition

An entrancing flow, ever repeating, ever evolving. A metamorphosis of 53 patterns in 40 minutes. A reoccuring theme to ponder upon, while subtle shifts bring constant change. What joy lies in this repetition of never quite the same. Music that makes the tree of life grow out of the barren soil.

 

To celebrate the 50th birthday of Terry Riley’s minimalist composition In C, André Ridder, composer and leader of the Africa Express, decided to record an african interpretation of the piece. He assembled 16 West African musicians and invited such prolific guests as Damon Albarn and Brian Eno to Mali. Riley seems to be highly pleased by In C Mali, which was recently released on Transgressive Records:

“I am overwhelmed and delighted by this CD. I was not quite prepared for such an incredible journey, hearing the soul of Africa in joyous flight over those 53 patterns of ‘In C’. This ensemble feeds the piece with ancient threads of musical wisdom and humanity indicating to me that this work is a vessel ready to receive and be shaped by the spontaneous feelings and colours of the magician/musician. I could not ask for a greater gift for this daughter’s 50th birthday.”