These days, we are pretty well used to the idea that the universe started with the Big Bang, and that before the Big Bang there was nothing, and the colour of nothing was black. But when you hear the latest release from Melbourne’s Paul Kidney Experience, their collaboration with legendary German krautrocker Mani Neumeier, you begin to wonder if that was right and if the colour of nothing was not in fact psychedelic.
Paul Kidney Experience with Mani Neumeier begins quietly, as if a cosmic orchestra is tuning up. But even here, in this empty space, millions of colours seem to be stirring. And then slowly, throughout the 11 and a half minutes of the opening ‘Ocular Orbit’, those colours emerge out of themselves into an inter-galactic light show, where everything from the primal groans of Paul Kidney to the alien squalls of a theremin, blend and blaze together, until they cool down and die out, leaving nothing but a solitary piano tinkling, hanging in the middle of nowhere.
‘Phospheniac’, the album’s second track, is about half as long and goes in the opposite direction. It begins with an explosion of discordant vocals, drums, guitar, and electronic mayhem and then fades into and out of little snatches of a disturbed quiet – like a psychotic beast catching its breath before its next assault. But, given what’s gone before, you can’t help feeling that this beast isn’t just some wild thing prowling in the jungle, but that it’s the universe itself – furious and violent.
Everything settles down for ‘The Canal of Schlemm’ – a long, slower, almost elegiac meditation, gentler and yet still somehow unsettled, like the troubled dreams of the beast that just tore you apart in the previous track.
The album ends with ‘Chromatic Aberration’, where strange voices – part tribal, part warrior, part animal – quietly but frighteningly chatter amongst themselves. The cosmic beast, it seems, has grown grumpy and now stalks and skulks, muttering to itself, all around you. It is unsettled, unstable and ultimately only fades away rather than finishes.
You know that everything that sprung into being from those first psychedelic drones of the beginning, now totters on the edge, and you with it. Despite the album’s short 33 minutes, this music has taken you a long way and you are left with a strange sense that isn’t ever going to really leave you alone.
Paul Kidney Experience with Mani Neumeier represents the very best of improvised experimental music, where ideas grow and mutate out of, and into, one another; where diversity and unity, chaos and order are all just different ways of looking at, or hearing, the same thing.