October 15, 2004

Kalima "night time shadows"

In the 1980s, several bands attempted to create a hybrid of jazz, rock and pop. Bands like Swing Out Sister, Sade and Everything But The Girl all took this formula to different levels of success. Though it may seem a bit naive now--after all, pop music's always contained trace elements of jazz and rock--these bands often had good intentions, often falling and failing when money (or lack thereof) became an issue, or when label interference pushed such bands into more commercially-minded product. Still, when it comes down to it, the music was what mattered most, regardless of what happened on the business side of things.

Kalima appeared in 1984, though they had actually formed several years before and had released an album and two singles as Swamp Children. Unfortunately, it seems Swamp Children were doomed; they had a horible band name, but it didn't stop there: they were damned with faint praise, caused confusion by a scene that didn't understand them and were treated as nothing more than a side project from A Certain Ratio. Still, listening to So Hot, you'd be hard-pressed to deny that they weren't onto something; their melding of post-punk and jazz, while not always rewarding, showed that these kids had some good ideas.

In January 1984, Kalima released their debut twelve-inch single, The Smiling Hour, and the maturity from Swamp Children is immediately apparent. "The Smiling Hour" is an upbeat, almost sing-along version of an old jazz standard, and the B-side, "Fly Away," was a nice shuffling bossanova number, very similar in style to contemporaries Everything But The Girl. Their Four Songs EP followed in 1985, and it only furthered their sound into deep, traditional jazz, with friendly, fast-paced groovers like "Land of Dreams" and "Sparkle." Lead singer Ann Quigley sounds utterly blissed-out with happiness and enthusiasm, making the already highly danceable rhythms even better. With such a promising start, it should come as no surprise that Night Time Shadows would be a great debut album. Others thought so, too, including Robin Millar, who had produced Sade's debut album, Diamond Life and he generously offered to produce the band. This offer fell through, as Factory thought the recording budget would have been too expensive, so the band recorded it themselves...and spent more money than it would have cost to work with Millar. (One must simply shake their heads at some of Factory's business decisions.)

As it turns out, Night Time Shadows was an extremely strong debut record, delivering on the promises of past releases, increasingly popular live performances and the maturity that comes from relentless touring. The band mixes traditional jazz with all the joi de vivre of the then-trendy 'new jazz' scene. Their sound was nothing if not utterly sincere; listen to the intro of "Black Water" or "Father Pants" and you'll here shades of Brubeck and Monk. Ann Quigley's voice was raw and gritty; though her voice wasn't always that strong, you could easily tell that strength was something that would develop over time--she was barely out of her teens by this time, after all.
Still, her voice simply radiates throughout Night Time Shadows, especially on the jaunty "On Green Dolphin Street" and the lovely "Mystic Rhythms" It's no surprise, then, that Kalima were popular in Europe and Japan.

Sadly, Night Time Shadows would be the final hurrah for this version of Kalima; touring commitments to A Certain Ratio and Swing Out Sister caused half of the eight-piece band to depart. Kalima would soon refine their sound to something even better, though, as they would go on to release more records--which are slated for reissue in Winter 2005. As it stands, Night Time Shadows is a great record that's well worth seeking out, a lost gem of a record that will please you immensely with each successive listen.

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.ltmpub.freeserve.co.uk

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