Ariel Kalma - Osmose (Beta-Lactam Ring CD)

If I could, I'd like to talk a bit about a record that blows everything else today out of the water even if it was originally released in 1978. Since its original release on 2xLP, "Osmose" has been eternally out of print and unavailable until this year when the good peoples at Beta-Lactam Ring took it upon themselves to get a reissue going. Thank god they did. This music is just too great to not be heard and appreciated. The story behind "Osmose" is that in 1977 a visual artist named Richard Tinti set out for the Borneo rainforest equipped with a Nagra recorder, a pair of microphones and a camera, and spent many hours documenting the sounds within. So lots of insect noises, some birds, war drums (!), other animal-generated sounds, but mostly that kind of almost subliminal vibe that such a place emanates. More on that later. Later that year Tinti hooked up with musician/composer/artist Ariel Kalma and Kalma, using Tinti's recordings as the foundations, proceeded to create incredible works of cosmic ambience using saxophone, synthesizers, keyboards, flute, drum machines, harmonium, guitar, vocals and multiple effect/pitch filters. Heavy? No foolin' - "Osmose" is subtitled "space music in the rainforest - a breath of fresh air".
As the Beta-Lactam Ring website states, Kalma's creations don't just rely on the rainforest's drones to provide a backdrop - they're actively integrated into the sounds being produced and Kalma is careful to consider the pitch and tone of Tinti's original recordings before adding his own. Which is probably why the lush blast of warm harmonium drones on "Planet-Air" are a match made in heaven when combined with the call-and-response chirping of the birds, who sound like they may just as well be sitting atop the harmonium. Ditto for the swirling psychedelic opener "Saxo Planetariel" wherein Kalma uses circular breathing to draw out a heavenly, organic sound from his saxophone. It paints a strikingly vivid portrait of the rainforest at night, the kind that compels you to curl up right there on the dirt floor for 50 or 60 years. Some of the tracks on "Osmose" have a lot in common with the early space/kraut investigations of bands like Tangerine Dream, Guru Guru and Cluster, but very much relieved of their "rock" elements. What you're left with is a pure and sweet gloss that sticks in your nostrils and pollutes your mind in the kindest kind of ways. Most notable of these is "Manege" which features a loping keyboard rhythm in duet with "frogs, fireflies, and all kinds of night creatures", as the liner notes say, and "Gongmo" which was originally created for a 1973 slide show named "Voyage au Centre de la Tete" so you know it's turned on. Best of these cuts has to be "Forest Ballad" which is described so well in the liners that I could never top it so I'll just reproduce it: "a silver flut echoes ever changing, harmonic waves of flanged keyboards and tuned reverbs amongst the trees of the rainforest, and as the sun gets hotter, morning birds and insect alike revel in a crescendo of sounds". A-fucking-men. The morning birds, the insects, and me.
That sums up the tracks from the original issue but this re-release includes three bonus tracks, recorded at the same time as the others but completely unreleased until now. "Osmose Chant" is exactly what the name foretells it to be, and although Kalma's vocals aren't as striking as the man himself, the piece does a pretty great job of conjuring up visions of Prandit Pran Nath working on the morning raga in the heart of the forest. "Saxo Forest" is a bit of a companion piece to the first track but features no effects or synths that I can pick up...just the terrestrial ambience and Kalma's thoughtful huffing on the sax. You know how Kaoru Abe used to practice by the roadside until he could hear himself over the oncoming traffic? Exact opposite, baby. "Orguitar Soir" is the best possible closing track for the effort: "a sweet guitar and flanged keyboard (tuned in a Morrocan G' nawa music style) lounge in a summer glade, intermittently pierced by birdsong". If that doesn't make you want to strip off all your closes and live free, well nothing else ever recorded will.
The only critique I could possibly come up with in regards to "Osmose" is that it's got a pretty fierce "New Age" feel to it which could turn off some people/squares. But maybe if all New Age music was like this it wouldn't be such a maligned pseudo-genre. And if you've already had your run-ins with Hermann Nitsch, Charlemagne Palestine, Pran Nath, Akio Suzuki, Toru Takemitsu et al, then you've probably already wondered about the potential New Ageyness of it all already. Nevertheless. "Osmose" is all the relaxation you'll ever need compressed into just under an hour's time. The perfect album to sleep by, or do anything lazily by really. But it's such a beautiful, subtle, well-crafted album you'll be revisiting it over and over and over and soaking in it like hot bathwater. And best of all, now you don't have to pay $175+ for it either!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude, new age is right on. at least there are ideas in there. current noise stuff is all politics....cults of personalities and such. it's so fucking weird...the encounters i have had with many noise scenesters has been worse than a fucking fashion show because people pretend like it's about something...oh shit that cd was "brutal"...fuck that who cares, cannibal corpse shreds that garbage. at least new age music is uncool and puts itself out there....not everyone is into sex crimes and skin diseases....quantumnoise.blogspot at least mentions this fact....like if something is on fag tapes it's good but if it's not a "dude" it sucks. FUCK THIS SHIT.
new age forever.

p.s. this album is awesome. listen to klaus schultze.

10/29/2006 12:02 AM  
Blogger Outer Space Gamelan said...

I think I'm hearing you. It depends what kind of noise scene you're talking about, I think...but for example I personally stopped reading the I Heart Noise forums because it was too much macho chestbeating stuff, which I think is what you're angling at. I'm a bigtime skeptic on most American basement harshnoise projects though.

Scoped out the Yellow Swans write-up on Quantum (...yer blog???), I see what the writer's saying but it's like a double-edged sword if he himself is going to start worrying about who the YS are associating with...if you think their releases suck then that's cool but no sense wasting everybody's time by passing off said suckiness on who they hang out with or whatever. Just say a record's shit or it's good and move on.

I don't know about Cannibal Corpse either dude, death metal hasn't done anything for me in the past while...last new thing I think I heard was Cryptopsy in 2005 who'll always be tops in my heart. And I think I heard Gorod's new one this year, that's about it. Way too stagnant a genre for me, I'll take black metal or grind over it any day.

Thanks for the recommendation; remember Garth Brooks' alter-ego Chris Gaines? What was that all about anyway?

10/29/2006 1:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, i was drunk. that is not my blog, though i think that guy is thoughtful so i like it. after a few years of encounters with "noise dudes" i have to call bullshit....it's like a fashion show but about dudeness instead of clothes. bunch of fucking syncophants i think. which is a shame. not enough new ideas, which is a bummer. i mean, i don't need novelty, and i like to hear old forms used well, but i don't know......tom smith's blog is pretty spot on about "the scene" i think. i mean, people who are good are FUCKING GOOD and i will dig the records, you know what i mean?

i don't know man, cannibal corpse is pretty awesome even though they suck....they just suck in an interesting way. agreed about grind though fucking love that shit....have you heard those anaal nathrakh albums?

10/30/2006 7:01 PM  
Anonymous cricket cricxkets said...

sounds really amazing, can't wait to hear this record myself.

nice blog btw, the spectrum of music reviewed is wide and impressive.
keep on the good work.

11/01/2006 10:17 AM  
Blogger Outer Space Gamelan said...

Why thanks, thanks very much.

11/01/2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger Zorb said...

Wow, thanks for pointing this album! I just got it after your review and I'm hooked!

I'll have to second cricket on the praise line! You're now the first review website I check every morning. And the only one I systematicaly read. I love the fact that you rarely go for the obvious "to review" stuffs.

Keep up the good work!

11/28/2006 8:52 AM  
Blogger Outer Space Gamelan said...

Aw, you're making me blush...thanks a lot for the kind words. Here's hoping I can continue meeting your expectations!

11/28/2006 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Space Gamelan,

I just read your review of 'Osmose' and want to thank you for talking so well about it... I mean, as if you feel from inside what I had intended from the outside... awesome...

Yes, it was a long big job to match Nature and Life with music... but I wanted to honor the far-away, the subtle, the small voices of our planet...

Yes, I have been stuck in the New Age box for so long that I call it 'Old Age', but what to do? Its better than most boxes!

Thanks for mentioning the people that inspired me at the time: Charlemagne Palestine, Pran Nath, Akio Suzuki, Toru Takemitsu, not to forget Terry Riley, La Monte Young,
Dagar Brothers, Klaus Schulze etc...

Yes, I am glad that Osmose is out again, the rainforest in sunshine!
Do you know that Beta-Lactam Ring Records will re-issue the 2 CD set in March? So people will enjoy nature (almost) alone...

Hey, its new year's day, so I wish you and your friends readers a very good year: take care of yourself, it's the only one you've got!

With heartfelt greetings,

Ariel Kalma

PS: sorry if I do not read your answer here, I rarely roam around... I also did not write my email, but if you really want, you can find me somewhere at www.music-mosaic.com - (the label I created for worldbeat & relaxation)

12/31/2006 9:49 PM  
Blogger Outer Space Gamelan said...

I'll write back anyway:
Thanks for the words Ariel, I'm glad you felt the review portrayed your album in an accurate light...always my number one worry when I talk about music, good or bad. I'll keep my eye out for the 2CD reissue and I'll definitely check out your label. Happy new year to you as well, all the best in health and musics!

1/01/2007 4:32 PM  

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