Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma: We Know Each Other Somehow / Sunshine Soup
Recorded in Main Arm, Australia, We Know Each Other Somehow brings together Brooklynite Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (aka Lichens) and Australia-based Ariel Kalma for seven extended excursions into synthesizer- and woodwinds-heavy ambient-electronic music. Formally issued on RVNG Intl., the project, whose CD content is complemented by the DVD documentary Sunshine Soup, is the twelfth installment in the FRKWYS series, which celebrates intergenerational collaborations.
Of the two, Kalma is the elder, the French-born musician having issued his first album, Le Temps des Moissons, in 1975 and followed it up with globe-spanning travels and a staff position at Pierre Henry's Groupe de Researches Musicales. The seed for the collaboration with Lowe was planted when he released Timon Irnok Manta, an album of deep drone-oriented pieces, on Type in 2012. After meeting in San Francisco shortly after the collaboration idea arose (Kalma struck by the compactness of Lowe's set-up, a vintage luggage case containing a portable modular synth unit), the kindred spirits decided to convene at Kalma's home studio during the time of Lowe's Australian tour dates with Om and, with Kalma playing woodwinds, Didgeridoo, and keyboards and Lowe contributing vocals, percussion, and synthesizers, document the meeting in recorded form.
A sense of place immediately declares itself when field recordings of birdsong and water dribble introduce “Magick Creek,” an aptly titled plunge into hallucinatory dronescaping coloured with outdoor sounds, slow synthesizer pulsing, and ponderous tenor saxophone musings. For seventeen minutes, the collective sound burbles and drifts, organically mutating as it wends its lulling way through some dense, newly conjured locale whose earthly coordinates are hazy at best. Elsewhere, Lowe's wordless, multi-layered vocals are used to haunting effect during “Mille Voix,” whereas “Strange Dreams” entrances by using sparkling, sing-song synthesizer patterns and Didgeridoo to cast its spell. Infused with mysticism, “Wasp Happening” stretches its classic, synthesizer-drenched ambient-drone across sixteen immersive minutes, and in contrast to the album's largely beatless offerings (pulsations aside), “Miracle Mile” surprisingly undergirds its bird calls, wailing saxophones, and wiry synthesizers with an insistent dance groove. Ambient dronescapes they might largely be, but the duo's meditations are anything but skeletal and anemic. Throughout We Know Each Other Somehow, Lowe and Kalma's spellbinding soundworlds teem with natural, acoustic, and synthetic detail and pulsate with energy.
Co-directed by Misha Hollenbach and Johann Rashid, Sunshine Soup documents the collaboration in non-linear visual form, the filmmakers in this case using handheld HD and 8 mm cameras to collect footage of the music's production and provide a satisfying visual companion to the recording. Opening with footage of a silhouetted Lowe gazing out upon a sprawling expanse of water, the film (its images shown in both black-and-white and colour) treats the sun-bleached landscape as central a character as the musical collaborators. The excitement felt by the collaborators about their musical project becomes even more evident when presented visually, as does the serious level of engagement with which they tackled their shared undertaking. At the very least, the film enables the viewer-listener the opportunity to more fully appreciate how genuinely Lowe and Kalma committed themselves to it.