Phonophani

Phonophani

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First released in 1998 in a limited-edition run then re-released in 2006 with three bonus tracks, Phonophani's self-titled debut is a darkly enjoyable, quite haunting example of electronic music near the turn of the century. Heard nearly ten years on from its original release context, it actually holds up quite well. While much of the sound places it firmly in the year of its creation, Phonophani's sole member, Espen Sommer Eide (also half of the duo Alog), has a definite ear for subtle, slowly coalescing pieces that harken more to the moodier side of the Touch label than to Warp, say. Opening "I. F. A." shows this well, with dramatic swoops and swells that sound like a John Barry orchestration echoing through deep water, setting a general tone of keeping the most easily accessible parts of his compositions distanced to one extent or another. There's a general tension at play between more conventional melodies and dank textures throughout the album; "Zurnas" has a deeply buried, hummable synth initially hidden behind much closer skronks and boogiemen-who-come-in-the-night noises (even what sounds like a tentative cough at one point), while the more prominent "Order of Disappearance" still has an unsettling, crackling rhythm that holds pride of place. Throughout the album Eide often aims for the minimal rather than overload: "Ring," with its extended loop of what sounds like a scattering of water in a vast cave, or the soft children's voice sample that fades away at the center of "Sol." At other points Eide embraces a slightly more conventional drone approach but through his own particular filter, thus the flowing muted-siren feel of "Duration-happiness," given a recurrent loop and understated rhythm shot through with sudden echoes of glitch. The biggest surprise in context is "C," which starts with a straightforward enough acoustic guitar figure that plays through the entire song. [The 2006 release contains bonus tracks.]

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