Experimental Audio Research

Phenomena 256

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Working with an expanded E.A.R. collective this time around, Sonic Boom continued his explorations into post-psychedelic experimentation with the attractive drones of Phenomena 256. Prevost and Martin return from Beyond the Pale, the latter helping co-produce, but the overall results aren't anywhere near as dark as that album, feeling more like a balance between it and the warmer sounds of Mesmerised. Longtime Boom counterpart Pete Bain, aka Pete Bassman from Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, adds lap steel guitar to the proceedings, often with very intriguing results, while Tom Prentice, who would also become an E.A.R. regular, adds electric viola. Along with Scott Riley on hammer guitar and Alf Hardy on "voltage control adviser," one of the better rock credits out there, Boom leads his crew through songs short and long, a series of engaging compositions in the general E.A.R. vein. Prevost's instantly recognizable bowed cymbal tones help herald an album highlight, the two-part "Space Themes," appropriately subtitled "Tribute to John Cage in C, A, G, E." It's a sly joke but also one that works wonders on the echoing, almost comforting murmur of the song. Martin adds only his trademark treated sax this time out; his haunting wails on cuts like the opening "Delta 6 (Hydroponic)," harking back to the EP of the same name, work with rather than dominate the flow of performances this time around. Other highlights include the title track, a "3-piece suite," and "Sub Aqua/Tidal/Lunar," which combines three separate pieces, each on a different channel or mix. As a weird final note, the cover art for Phenomena 256 turns out to be the detail of a much larger picture that finds the hitherto missing link between classic Warner Bros.' style animation and the subject matter of Deep Throat.

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