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!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The chaotic cohesion of improvisation - Slocombe's Pussy Vs The Paul Kidney Experience

Many of us – maybe even most of us – like to think there’s a bit of a plan to things: our day, our grocery shopping, our future, our universe. But the reality is that most of these things happen in their own way and, more often than not, all of them surprise us. Things always seem to happen arbitrarily – the person who drops in for a visit without notice; the extra block of chocolate that we accidentally buy; the new job that comes our way went we’re not looking for it, the old friendship that finishes without us noticing it; the star that darts across the sky when we just happen to casually look up.

But what’s amazing is that, with so many big things and so many little things all happening so randomly, it all somehow holds together and, when we stand back from the chaos, it looks as though it might have all been meant to be that way all along, after all.

That’s how you feel when you listen to the music of the Paul Kidney Experience – a multi-coloured Melbourne band who improvises everything they do but whose efforts build themselves into the kind of chaotic cohesion of which only the very best music, like the very best universes, is made.

I have written about the Paul Kidney Experience previously on this blog, but their new album, where they are joined by members of Slocombe’s Pussy, is quite a different beast. Things are not quite as terrifying here and you get the impression, except perhaps for the final track, that it could be safe to listen to Slocombe’s Pussy Vs The Paul Kidney Experience reasonably close to bedtime without risking nightmares.

The music might be less scary this time, but it’s no less weird, no less daring. Still unidentifiable sounds mix with those that are, or have been, familiar; still instruments and voices push themselves in strange directions; still old worlds and new worlds clash and coalesce. And here, just as on Radio Transmissions, the incredible improvisation skills of these musicians take you everywhere other than the places you expect to go.

Things kick off perfectly with ‘Emulsion’ and its sense of unbridled, unrefined celebration – a bunch of primordial freaks waking up, unkempt, unclothed, and dancing the day to life. Nell Day weaves her half-rustic, half-medieval, violin through the pagan pounding of drums, guitars and Paul Kidney’s vocals-in-tongues.

The mood quietens down, and spookens up, for ‘Albuminurophobia’ – the sounds here are more dense, more drone-like, as dissonance swells and howls: an ocean that heaves to the choir of all the souls that have ever been lost to it.

A more solid, insistent, almost tribal, beat invades the music for ‘Wet Kidney’, and everyone else responds as they should – roused to the dance again, fuelled by blood pumped from the heartbeat of an ancient and angry earth, the vocals now animalistic, the guitars and electronics whirring and whizzing each other on. It is impossible to stay still to this music.

There is a contemplative, almost dreamy, respite with ‘Velocity Addition Formula’. The guitar sings you through a melody that is somehow searching, somehow yearning, and yet somehow at peace too, despite the bed of noise on which it seduces you, and makes love to you.

But it is only a respite. And the screeches and chaos of ‘Pseudodoxia Epidemica or Vulgar Errors’, which closes the album, awaken you from any complacency, from any urge to see, in the old, old roots of civilisation, an opportunity for nostalgia.

In its 40-ish minutes, this album, in its amazing single arc of improvisation, takes you to many places in a universe where everything is happening for the first time and where nothing is every really at rest.

They are places where all the elements of creation are in harmony, but they are not the harmonies of a settled, civilised space – rather they are those harmonies where one bit does something crazy, and all the rest become crazy with it, in perfect, crazy sync.

Outrageously limited to just 100 copies, Slocombe’s Pussy Vs The Paul Kidney Experience is issued through Supercriticality Records.

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