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Ariel Kalma - An Evolutionary Music (Original Recordings: 1972 [RVNG Intl - 2014]

"An Evolutionary Music" is a collection of recordings made in the years 1972-1979 by Parisian born musician Ariel Kalma.  Most of them are circular, repetitive melodic loop pieces made primarily out of organ (and other instruments) and analog delays.  As a result, they sound inevitably similar to Terry Riley's similarly constructed "A Rainbow in Curved Air".

At first, the tone of the music is meditative and reverent, even religious.  Many pieces drone on a consonant, open feeling chord, over which various melodic fragments will dance.  Despite being only loosely structured in time, Kalma's consistent adherance to tonality makes the music sound focused and cohesive in its feeling.  The scales used are most comparable to the ragas found in Indian classical music.

Simple as it is, the sound of Kalma's music is joyful, his organ's white-hot and sweetly piercing tone as captivating to the imagination now as it ever could've been then.  At the album's best moments, it produces a thought loop, an ecstatic circular sensation, best illustrated in the glosolalia of "Asalam Yamarek".  Compared to most 'ambient' musicians, Kalma's style is vividly performative and active.

Later on in the 80 minute disk, the album deviates from its monastic atmosphere and scalar improvisatory style for several freeform experiments which have a casual, unintentional feel to them, sounding like scraps of sound which were never really meant to be serious pieces of work.  These tracks have no melody, emotion or atmosphere to speak of.

For example there is "What Would You Say", a makeshift collage of synthesizer, drum machine and casually inserted vocalizations of 'la la la la', 'ooh!' or actual English phrases, assembled sloppily, with a sort of 'anything goes' attitude.  The sense that this track was made as a joke, or simply to pass the time, but contains no real musical content or intention, seems to directly undermine the atmosphere created in the first few tracks on the CD.

Luckily, the beauty of the music returns for a number of songs near the end, particularly the blissfully arpeggiated 13 minute closer, "Yogini Breath", perhaps the most hedonistic and 'space rock' feeling of everything on this undoubtedly psychedelic album, a chorus of falsetto 'aahs' lilting to and fro between two dreamy chords, backed by a distant muffled electronic rhythm.

It would seem this CD was compiled in order to demonstrate Ariel Kalma's relevance in the original era of ambient and loop music, a goal achieved to reasonable success with tracks such as "Ecstasy Musical Mind Yoga" and "Echorgan".  However, listening to this 80 minute disk in its entirety can be difficult, as it has been bloated by the inclusion of several useless tracks in which the musicians seemingly make no effort to play to their own abilities, or create something expressive.  In my opinion, filling the disk is not as important as making it an engaging experience from beginning to end.  I am torn, as a nearly perfect album could be created simply by removing tracks from this disk.  In any case, there's a lot of great music here, which should appeal equally to ambient fans and those interested in freeform psychedelic improvisation.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Josh Landry
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