Despite its forbidding French title and modern-artsy sleeve, it might be the most accessible release from either artist.
Intemporel opens with slow, billowing sax clouds from Ariel Kalma, and anyone who’s done a bit of digging into new age will be right at home. But where’s Sarah Davachi? We squint through the mix to hear a single note droning in the distance. There she is.
Even in the odd niche of intergenerational avant-music pairings—epitomized by RVNG Int’l’s FRKWYS series, for which Kalma collaborated with Lichens’ Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe—this is a curious combo. Ariel Kalma is not exactly a minimalist while Davachi is so much so as to be almost monkish. Though both more or less make ambient music, Kalma’s roots are firmly in new age, Tibetan singing bowls and all. Davachi is more of a classical composer than anything else. Surely Emily A. Sprague, whose Mount Vision from last year explores the same mind-massaging capabilities of drone music as Kalma’s late-career highlight Eternalia, would’ve been a better candidate for a young collaborator.
The album does take a second to build steam, and “Hack Sat Zoom” makes us wonder if this isn’t going to be more about two nerds playing with their hardware than about atmosphere and soundscaping. But once we emerge at the other end of the 12-minute “Adieu la Vie” we’re right at home with these two. It’s a relief to find that most of Intemporel’s 47 minutes concern themselves with foggy mystery and minor-key searching rather than dueling egos.
It’s a lopsided collaboration almost by default. We’re usually hearing much less of Davachi than of Kalma. Her drones are content to act as the floor atop which his exotic filigrees twist, twirl and leap. We realize in due time that this is a conscious artistic decision. Sometimes collaborations work best when one cedes some room to the other. Good taste is one of the most important factors in ambient collaborations, and sometimes the ego has to be sacrificed in service of the work.
They still somehow meet in the middle. There’s more emotional shading and a stronger sentimental streak here than on most of Davachi’s albums, while the younger artist might’ve held the older one back from indulging in some of his more wookish fantasias—though the tap of his beloved Tibetan singing bowl is clearly audible on “Intemporel” and “Harmonium Odyssey,” sounding obstinately as if keeping track of time.
This is a highlight of both artists’ catalogs. Despite its forbidding French title and modern-artsy sleeve, it might be the most accessible release from either. Kalma’s work can be cheesy, Davachi’s can be austere and they balance each other out more than anything else. Though anyone familiar with either artist will recognize a lot of the sounds, Intemporel somehow doesn’t feel like anything else in their discographies. It’s neither heady like Kalma’s music nor hermetic like Davachi’s. It comes across more like an early Harold Budd or Ryuichi Sakamoto album, the kind of thing that works best when you’re walking around in a reverie, appreciating the world.