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Psalm Alarm - Blk Paintings Vol. 1

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Artist: Psalm Alarm

Album: Blk Paintings Vol. 1

Label: Cut Hands

Review date: May. 18, 2007

John Olson’s Graveyards trio are relatively well known for their violently separatist take on avant-garde jazz, and it’s a little odd that he’s chosen a new pseudonym for the same line-up’s new album, Blk Paintings Vol 1. Olson's focus as Psalm Alarm has Ben Hall and Hans Buetow joining him on an exploratory trip into minimalist horror soundtracking. This sideways step seems to be more an investigation into a strand of more sinewy darker material than a radical rebranding. Psalm Alarm leave behind their anything goes assault-on-free-jazz and that genre’s more recognizable signature moves.

With both Hall and Buetow raking at the knotted faces of their instrumentation, this disc employs occasional moments of rhythm and slow motions to create soundscapes of baleful minimalism. Avoiding conventional scare tactic cues like string themes or unannounced stabs of sound, Psalm Alarm instead employs handmade drones and moody auras. A scalding run-out groove opens the proceedings, ushering in the audio equivalent of Nosferatu shadows. Bells, sounding like they were sourced from long abandoned towns, ring like guillotine steel meeting neck and wood in the still of the night. Black tones wrap these clanged notes, pulling them like slow elastic, their dying drone overlapping to form a tense line through the silence. More than any other element it’s Hall’s use of non-rhythmic percussion work on these three tracks that makes Blk Paintings Vol 1 the piece of seething bleak work that it is.

Similar to what you’d expect the most evil, tranced-out Matthew Bower dungeon session to sound like; this is the trio’s most malevolent and haunted collection of sounds yet. These exploratory avenues aren’t that oblique that they needed to be assigned a new moniker, but it’s good to know that there won’t be any interruptions to the usual Graveyards service with this new ugly style in play.

By Scott McKeating

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