An absolutely astounding accomplishment, Black Sweat's second 4 LP Box set diving into previously unreleased material by Ariel Kalma - 'French Archives Vol. II' - is a mind-melting immersion into the composer and saxophonist's radical experiments and stunning ambient harmonics made between 1974 and 1985. Venturing far beyond the territories for which he is most well-known, the collection takes great strides to accurately framing Ambient and New Age musics as rightful extensions of the avant-garde, and is easily one of the most exciting listens of the years so far.
Since their founding nearly a decade ago, the Milan based imprint, Black Sweat, has left an indelible mark on the landscape of recorded music, issuing a strikingly diverse array of historical and contemporary efforts, spanning numerous fields and artistic disciplines. Resting at the adventurous borders of creativity and sound, their latest release, French Archives Vol. II, dives into previously unreleased archival material from the 1970s by Ariel Kalma.
Spanning the years between 1974 and 1985 and sprawling across a beautiful 4 LP box set, it immerses the ear in the composer’s more radical experiments and stunning ambient harmonics, creating an astounding image of his practice and ideas, the likes of which have rarely been heard until now.
"French Archives Vol. II 1974-1985" (4LP box)
Black Sweat has always offered a special place of distinction to the French saxophonist and composer, Ariel Kalma, endeavouring to reissue the majority of his out of print and highly sought-after discography on LP. Taking this initiative one step further, back in 2017, they brought out the incredible 4 LP box set, French Archives 1977-1980, gathering never before issued recordings made by Kalma during one of the most important and exciting periods in his career. Now they’re back with a second volume in the series, comprising recordings that span the period from 1974 to 1985, across an equal number of sides.
The life and work of Ariel Kalma is a remarkable journey in sound. Born in Paris, he cut his teeth collaborating with Baden Powell and others during the late 1960s and early 70s, all the while privately making experimental tape pieces which deployed acoustic instruments, found sounds, and poetry, in conjunction with electronic processes and effects.
In 1974, following his passion for meditative music and drone, Kalma traveled to India to study the country’s ancient, classical traditions - laying many of the roots for the singular approach to sound which would emerge as a remarkable series of LPs and cassettes over the coming decades.
Upon his return from India, Kalma went to work as a recording assistant at the legendary studios of Groupe de Recherches Musicales, where he remained until 1979.
With the exception of a handful of slightly later works from the '80s that grace the final LP, French Archives Vol. II is an immersion into this crucial period of Kalma’s work, bridging the explicit avant-garde practices which made up the core of artistic activity at GRM, his interest and study of Indian and African traditions, and the quests of New Age and Ambient music for higher meaning and consciousness through sound.
French Archives Vol. II is divided into 4 independently titled LPs, Delirium GRM, Dream Stars, Rue De La Gaite, and Kula Confidential.
The first, Delirium GRM, spans the period from 1974 to 1979 and features recordings made at Groupe de Recherches Musicales and Kalma’s home studio in Montparnasse.
Among the most explicitly experimental of any Kalma releases to date, the range of sound sources and approaches is vast, pushing well beyond his roots as a saxophonist, while illuminating the groundwork for much of his work to come. Percussion, numerous keyboards and synthesizers, tape loops, effects, bells, objects, Tibetan bowls, concrete and found sounds, voice, flutes, and numerous others sources, jell into a pulsing, shimmering world of forward-thinking creativity, marked by a striking sense of openness and play that rivals anything of its era.
Rue De La Gaite, the set’s second LP, delves into previously unheard territories of Kalma’s musical life. Recorded at his home on Rue de la Gaité, Montparnasse, in Paris, between 1976 and 1979, six compositions feature the composer accompanied by Brahim el Belkani and Loy Ehrlich, collectively creating a musical hybrid from elements of Morrocan G’nawa, the musics of India, and jazz-tinged improvisation, woven from the sounds of tabla, hajouj bass, harmonium, Farfisa, voice, and various other sources and effects.
Ranging from joyous jam to immersive, considered works of organic ambience and tonal duration, the volume delivers a stunning sense of intimacy, directness, and organic depth, that is not only beautiful and complex, but unlike anything else in Kalma’s extensive discography we’ve heard so far.
French Archives Vol. II’s third LP. Dream Stars, comprises a stunning series of recordings made live during 1977 at the Paris Planetarium, utilizing stacked double organs and modified drum machines and effects to achieve an almost narcotic, psychedelic effect of pulsing ambience and tone, while the fourth, Kula Confidential, recorded between Paris and Hawaii, and spanning the years between 1977 and 1985, is arguably the most diverse and interesting of the entire collection.
Drawing on time spent on the island of Maui, and spanning arpeggiating minimalism at the borders of kosmiche, fascinating vocal experiments, modal saxophone excursions, and percussive tribalism, as well as the sprawling acoustic ambiences for which Kalma is best known, it’s an astounding journey through the composer’s diverse approaches to sound during the era that gave us some of his most celebrated works, serving to radically expand our understanding of the practices that underscored releases like Osmose, Interfrequence, Musique Pour le Reve et l’Amour, and Open Like a Flute.
It’s impossible to sing enough praise for Black Sweat’s second volume of Kalma’s French Archives. Not only is it an astounding and immersive experience in joyous listening, but its historical importance has few parallels. A deep dive into the unheard worlds of one of the most fascinating artists working in France during the 1970s and 80s, French Archives Vol. II is issued in a stunning box with its four LPs housed in distinct colored inner sleeves, accompanied by a large booklet with credits and beautiful unreleased photos, illuminating perfectly the depth of Kalma’s traveling soul.