Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma: FRKWYS Vol. 12: We Know Each Other Somehow (CD+DVD, RVNG Intl, April 2015)

Is it just me, or have there an unusual number of exciting collaborations happening recently (and not just on this intriguing FRKWYS series)? This pairs young experimentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, mostly on various modular synth type creatures, and old-time experimentalist Ariel Kalma, mostly on sax, flute, and didgeridoo. The result is pretty impressive. I find the record draws me in with three relatively (!) focussed tracks: Magick Creek is tied together by a sample of a stream, over which Kalma’s sax and didgeridoo and Lowe’s bird-like bleeps and bloops circulate; Mille Voix is dominated by a striking voiceless chant, and is probably what would happen if Gregorian monks made secular drone music; Gongmo Kalma Lowe is underpinned by a clattering percussion line. The effect is… well, it’s hard to avoid the word “meditative” (and it’s no surprise to see on the accompanying sort-of-making-of DVD, Sunshine Soup, that both parties, seemingly Kalma in particular, are that way inclined) but in a very centred way, without any of the flabbiness which can plague new-age music. The next three tracks get progressively more demanding, with Miracle Mile being is probably the most minimal here and clocking in at nearly 19 minutes. I’m willing to admit that this don’t always grip me: if I’m in the zone, it’s great, but if I get distracted, it can be hard to work my way back in. Still, it’s a fitting culmination to a rich and deeply rewarding listen.

I almost wish I’d got the vinyl version, which ends there: I think it would help concentrate the mind. As it is, the digital release (which is on Google Play Music and probably elsewhere) has an alternative version of Mille Voix, distinguished mostly by being almost three times the length of the original (and very welcome for it, as this is a very splendid piece of music); and both the digital release and the CD (which is what I bought) end with a short and disconcertingly chirpy little flute-and-buzzy-synths jig called Palo Alter Reality.

(Aside: I’d been listening to this record for several weeks, and studied the sleeve art, and watched Sunshine Soup through, before I realized where I recognized Lowe from: he was the star in Ben Rivers’ and Ben Russell’s excellent semi-fictionalized ethnographic movie A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness. I should have spotted this earlier, really, as both his look and his voice are quite recognizable. Although there is no Norwegian black metal on this record.)

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Modern Classical / Ambient.

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