Originally released back in 1998 in a limited quantity (500 LPs) on Biosphere’s Biophon label, the debut effort from Phonophani is a gem of an album that’s fittingly getting a proper re-release from Rune Grammofon. A strange, eerie album created from filtered bits of what sounds like orchestral music and mutant electronic explorations, it doesn’t sound like it’s aged a bit in almost ten years. Just to sweeten the deal, three extra tracks from the same time period have been added to the re-release, filling it out a bit more and providing an even deeper glimpse as to what was being created at the same time.
“I.F.A.” opens the release and it’s a powerful and persuasive piece that begins with a shudder of submerged orchestral fanfare before dropping to even deeper depths as backwards tape loop swirls, mournful horns, and rich low end warbles all come together in haunting ways. “Zurnas” is another stunner, letting gated bursts of female vocals interrupt a filtered orchestra that then morphs into a humming minimal electronic piece that sounds like Basic Channel gone weird.
In places, the album resembles the work of Biosphere himself (particularly Shenzou), and that’s not really a bad thing. “Duration-Happiness” opens with gorgeous swells of lush filtered strings before changing direction dramatically as swarming percussive elements threaten to overtake the track. Elsewhere, “Kaliphoni” takes a couple overlapping loops of orchestral movements and then juxtaposes them with one another, toying with the resonance of each and letting sharp bursts of feedback puncture their waltzing movement.
At thirteen tracks and over seventy-five minutes of music, the debut runs a bit long in places, and not every track hits the mark, but the album is definitely one of the more unique electronic albums that I’ve heard in awhile. Although it may seem like a vague statement to make, it’s a release that sounds like it should have a home on Rune Grammofon. Arriving somewhere between the experimental wanderings of Alog and the Nordic moans of Biosphere, it’s a weighty release that sucks you in and keeps on tugging at you until it’s all over with. Not only that, but the disc also has some of the best graphic design I’ve seen on an album this year, courtesty of the always-experimenting Kim Hiorthoy.