Le temps des moissons
Beta lactam ring
We should by rights doff our caps to Beta Lactam Ring because in releasing this re-mastered opus by Ariel Kalma they have unearthed and brought kicking and screaming into the cold harsh daylight a truly certifiable lost gem from the backwaters of prog’s rich and sometimes wayward forgotten tapestry.
Limited to just 500 copies worldwide, housed in a book styled hardback sleeve and making its first appearance on CD (the set is bolstered by two additional cuts recorded in the same era and spirit), this album has in certain circles attained mythical status among prog / jazz purists. Originally appearing in 1975 it was the culmination of a musical learning curve that had led to a young aspiring Paris born musician Kalma to visit India to learn and absorb the native techniques to melody. The resulting album was the by product of that period of self growth and realisation.
Fusing traditionalist sounds with modern techniques such as cross loops, faders, various effects, electronic instrumentation and elements of dub, legend has it that Kalma ran out of money after the recording and pressing sessions producing an initial batch of a thousand copies all without printed sleeves, taking an armful of blank sleeves he resorted to literally personalising designs and numbering the first batch simply by drawing around his hand. Safe to say these early additions are eagerly sought after. In addition the album is marked out historically for the original vinyl pressings locked groove on the run out which by all accounts led to tales of turntable motors giving up the ghost and stylus’ going blunt.
The resulting sound of ‘les temps des moissons’ is one of a delirious feast of tripping tapestry, a culminating hybrid of naturalised world music put through an exotic snake charming psych jazz blender, and though the word ‘world’ may well – if your like me – put the fear of dread into your potential listening prospects then fear not. Rather more Kalma crafts a heady mind bending odyssey that loosely draws the spiritual dots between Fahey and Zorn (though check out the abstract freeform cosmic grooves of the wig flipped Sun Ra like ‘voyage reternelle‘), a richly textured cultural and aural account that is rewardingly highlighted by the seductive fusion of the old with the new. Principally a Saxophone score (you’ll find harmonium and didgeridoo arrangements interspersed throughout – the latter provided for by the hazily side winding flotillas of flutes / harps ‘fast road to nowhere‘ – Volcano the Bear gone Australasian perhaps) he sumptuously captures the mystical mystery of the middle east in all its vivid kaleidoscopic glory whilst simultaneously providing what can only be referred to as an intoxicating meditative mantra sublimely traversing across five unique sultry vistas.
From the opening title cut, Kalma takes flight upon a voyage of droning montages that conjures up images of dissipating dream weaving collages brought to bear by the succulent unravelling of snake winding mirages breezed through arid aural climates across endless sun baked landscapes with the effective use of wah wah‘s and the expressive utilising of space providing a deeply exotic lysergic tipped feel to the proceedings. From there on in a multi textured mind warping journey is afoot. ‘bakafrica’ finds Kalma employing intricate tribalistic rhythmic structures and interloping clipped jazz arrangements to his brewing melting pot, the vibe one of dizzying wood smoked resonance that strangely traverses borders occupied by 23 Skidoo and French kraut / jazz enthusiasts Tank all interspersed by some killer moments of fried late 60’s fringe flipping psychotropic interweaves. Though for me personally it the parting 17 minute opus ’reternelle’ wherein the set coalesces to draw all its attending aural languages and landscapes into one terra-forming collective snapshot, if this mesmerising slice of lushly realised head expanding snake charmed ambience with its cross weaving sax harmonising and Arabesque motifs doesn’t have you high as a kite on its hallucinogenic hypnotics then frankly space cadet your on the wrong page in the wrong room and with the wrong record playing on the wrong hi-fi – get out of here.
Thirty plus years on ’Les Temps des Moissons’ remains unrivalled, untouched and still despite the passing of time an essentially current and relevant aural artefact that achieves that rare feat of being as fresh and disturbingly ahead of the game today as it was when it first appeared way back in the 70’s.
First published – December 2008