by Black Paintings
CD; Self-published, 17 Euros (includes
Artists website: http://www.voiceofshade.net.
Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University, USA 48710
Black Paintings is a project of Nikolai
Galen, whose earlier CD Emmanuel Vigeland
was discussed on this website. In this
trio, Galen teams up with Tim Hodgkinson
on clarinet and Ken Hyder on drums (and
sometimes voice) to make music that shares
"a kinship with that of inner Asia
by staying in touch with alert silence".
Recording at Bryn Derwen, Snowdonia, they
produced a improvisational vocal-driven
collection that fills two CDs.
The first CD, Screams, opens with "cave
of a large city". Its long single
clarinet note, cymbals and Edgar Varese
percussion suggest existential emptiness.
While "barbarian" begins with
a pipsqueak, "hitting a corner"
evokes desperation over drum rolls. The
listener cocks an ear to whoops and hollers
that attempt to mouth a demented alphabet,
to moans and wails evoke an excess of
bad gin, or to hear the ambience of the
asylum called Bedlam seen in old prints,
amidst the autistic drumming of muttering
inmates chained to the floor. "belly"
also has weird utterances, that are wordless
and unformed yet clearly cockney-accented.
Though Galen now lives in Istanbul, he
formerly lived in England.
The last track on Screams is "human
in the beginning", where the travails
of tongue-tied auctioneer are succored
by clarinet. The long, pure note that
ends "another continent" echoes
that of "cave of a large city"
at the beginning of the disc.
On the second CD, Silence, Galens
solo voice in "humans come to"
groans beneath the thumbscrew ,or from
cannonball constipation. We hear the painful
cries of a man giving birth, his baby
ripping through organs intended otherwise.
At the end, the clarinet comes in merrily
to clean up, whistling past a graveyard.
In Black Paintings, Tim Hodkinsons
clainet serves as the lion-tamers
whip that keeps the belligerent voice
of Galen in check. "another breath"
is built around rolling clarinet, and
"shift shift" pits the clarinet
against a drum smack and bullys
growl. "throat" serves a gravelly
ahhh.. over jazzy brushed snare, alert
to an alien signal of mystery notes coming
over the clarinet If the track alludes
to Tuvan throat song, thats still
Inner Asia, though far from the Bosporus.
"sleep" emits a primal coo or
Ommm... Then theres a shepherds
murumr, then a whipped-doggy whimper of
fear, atop nice interplay of clarinet
While Black Paintings avow an affinity
for free jazz, this reviewer cant
help but hear their rootedness in Punk,
the do-it-yourself aesthetic rooted in
conviction that anyone can do it. These
are artists affirming their freedom to
disturb, to irritate. Meanwhile, Nikolai
Galen should carry a business card that
reads "Non-Objective Vocalist",
whose presentation upon entering a room
would be a caveat of what was to come.