This is a blog devoted to music on the edge - experimental, underground, alternative, subversive, or just plain weird - new music that tries new things, or old music that broke old rules. It's a place to discuss ideas, share discoveries, to think about what makes music interesting and challenging but still good to listen to. Join in and have your say!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The spectral disgruntled night of the Paul Kidney Experience

After discovering the sensationally original sounds of The Gruntled just a couple of weeks ago, it only took a hop, step and a jump from there to find myself immersed in the vastly different, but somehow strangely kindred, sound world of the Paul Kidney Experience. PKE's centrepiece is, of course Paul Kidney, The Gruntled's sometime vocalist. Both projects share the guitar of Richard Walsh and both use the incredible improvisation skills of all their members to build their own unique universes of sound, were music and noise mingle, where colours clash and blend, where light and dark caress each other and then beat each other to death.

But the music of PKE is very much its own thing, light years away from The Gruntled, despite their shared ingenuity, despite the bonds that tie them across the universes. In PKE, we find ourselves dragged into a freaky, creepy world, a world where you are scared not just by the things that go bump in the night, but also by the things that don't. It is music that can be very quiet or very loud. But it is never music that goes unnoticed, nor fails to let you know that somewhere, somehow, sometime, it is walking on your grave.

The music is built out of distorted guitars, the freaked-out violin of Nell Day, the insane, guttural, grunting vocals of Paul Kidney, a screeching sax, the unsettlingly soft tinkling of a piano, out of sounds and noise: music that swells and recedes, never really relaxing, just moving its threats and menace around you, sometimes staring you in the face, sometimes lurking around a corner, breathing just loud enough for you to know it's still there.

Its quiet, haunted noises might build and surge, until they become a crazed, manic death march, stomping onwards and downwards in the night into an orgy of ghouls, as they do in 'Dustberries', from the 2010 album Radio Transmissions. Or there might be the irritated, unsettled slumber with which 'Tardigrades', from the same album, opens, as if it was the post-coital slumber following the Dustberry decadence. But it, too, builds into its own frenzy, almost like an Arabian bacchanal with its drones and middle eastern tonality, yet still spooked by the growls and grumbles of an alien night.

It is the daring use of sound in this music - pushing instruments and voice beyond their normal limits, distorting them beyond their normal comfort zones - that helps create its freakish other-worldness. But it is its improvised, unbridled soul, dark, chaotic, and yet somehow controlled too - the way it grows out of itself rather than out of a page or a program - that's what makes this music so authentic, so believable.

And that's what makes you not want to be left alone with it, late at night, when the lights are out.

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