Paintings for Animals - Thee Forest ov Psalms [Self release - 2010]Paintings for Animals, self-described as 'an esoteric vocal electronic project', is an outlet for the work of one Pearson Wallace-Hoyt, currently residing in Olympia, WA. His music is occasionally quite traditionally dark ambient, but surprisingly focused and powerful, channeling the calm lucidity of various monastic traditions. His latest, "Thee Forest Ov Psalms" is a deeply meditative and spiritual release overflowing with intensity, not to mention rarer, more exotic attributes such as aural clarity and 'transparency. It is a CD of simple music and masterfully placed moments of emptiness. Each sound source and its role was so carefully chosen that it's easy to be drawn in by textures and timbres alone, and thus, less proves to be more. It is minimalistic and mesmerizing.
The album commences with a voiced christening/incantation, which feels only right. "A handful for thee root. Ever tending, ever descending..." A man and woman speaking in unison... possibly pitch changed voices of eerie and odd quality. Nightmare characters. "A handful for thee forest ov psalms..." A choir of the zombified devout carries a basic drone tone beneath, sounding more alarming and less human as the piece swells. The cathedral has risen to engulf us.
"Thee Bells ov Mercuralia" leaves us suspended in a mystic space for 10 minutes with no discernable changes, and for me, at least, it's the highlight track. The mesmerizingly deep frequencies of the bells whirl out with unpredictable resonant abandon into vast unseen chambers. Nothing else is needed - any additional sound would distract from the wondrous kaleidoscope of resonances. The bells ring out in mindfully spaced clusters, perfect on so many levels despite apparent loose organization in time.
The short interlude "Florauna" is a transition back into active states of being. The rising, quasi-melodic drone largely hides a luminescent carpet of understated arpeggios beneath. The drone proceeds to gain thickness and volume. It's like an electric light growing steadily brighter.
With the final two tracks Pearson explores deeper, less defined realms of thought in which the surrealistic confusion and free association of dream states run rampant. The reverberations we hear seem more distant. "Thee Antler Horn Ov Halsealth" is the strangest track on the album, and also the most subterranean in feel. The bells return here, this time resigned and soft with heads bowed in catatonic sorrow - we have reached a place where movement is virtually non-existent. As the bells begin to resonate in strange and unnatural ways, we are greeted with the warmth of a chorus of voices softly intoning the familiar vowel 'ahh'. What comforting qualities the voices possess dissolve as they rise in volume and mix with mangled echoes of themselves in a percolating wash of distorted melodic fuzz. A claustrophobic but intensely magickal piece.
The bells chime periodically for the third and last time in the 13 minute closer, titled "Covalence (Vines)". Now they are sparse, but insistent, hypnotic... determined to take us still deeper. Faint sounds appear now and again... Rattles and cymbals create swells of clamorous percussion. Distant metallic whines and scrapes drift strangely out of the vibrating surrealistic darkness. The music is miraculously both deeper and more empty than ever. Horns and voices join in the second half, supplying deep, harmonious bass. Noise oscillators can be faintly heard sputtering through modulations that should sound familiar to anyone who has listened to Coil's "Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil" and "Time Machines" (an influence Pearson has acknowledged). Slower even than the rest of the album, this track has an air of finality that makes it a great ending.
In conclusion, "Thee Forest ov Psalms" is refreshing, truly ritualistic and meditative ambient music without too much programmatic gimmick. Infinitely more purposeful with respect to compositional process than most of the dark ambient horde, Pearson's Paintings for Animals project shines radiantly even while employing surprisingly diminutive numbers of layers and elements.Josh Landry