Various Artists

Phi-Phenomena

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Related to (but only partially documenting) a series of shows from 1997 to 2001 featuring a slew of different bands -- the idea was ten bands in an hour, each playing five minute sets -- Phi-Phenomena presents a reasonable slice of bizarro solo recordings, free jazz moans and cries, aggro underground noise, and more from all over the States and beyond. A co-release between seven different labels, Phi-Phenomena for the most part features groups who even those up on their independent rock would be hard-pressed to name; folks like the Gang Wizard and Cock E.S.P. are as relatively famous as it gets. But that's part of the joy of discovery with this release, and there's a fair amount to discover. The strident U Can Unlearn Guitar starts and ends the collection with two equally unsettling songs, both of which feature yelping, raving vocals over low-key guitar, keyboards, and drums -- not quite a slightly more coherent Jandek, but close enough. With those as bookends, everything else on the disc runs plenty of gamuts -- nothing will ever come close to troubling the charts (even college radio charts, likely enough), but if it's proof that some people will always defiantly do things their way that's desired, here's the place. The scrawling electronic noise and feedback of Newton also turn up twice, one song amusingly titled "Nervous About Playing With Cock E.S.P. (Tomorrow Night)." Madame Chao's "Infinite Fuckface" makes for a barrel of tape-abuse-loop fun in two minutes' time, while Ortho's combination of clarinet-Wagner and metallic stomps on "Waste Not Want More" is bemusing. More than a few tracks are little more than minimal pieces and undifferentiated chaos that come and go without much to say for them, but for laughs check out Dixie Prix's odd little chop-up of a Bryan Ferry cover of Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall Down."