Phal:Angst have created something hallowed, isolated, and truly beautiful with their latest album Whiteout. Developing a world made of post-rock staples, such as ethereal guitars and heavy drumming, being dragged against the jagged, industrial world of harsh synths make comparisons to bands like Earth, Mogwai, Coil, Front 242 and Neurosis fair. But, in my opinion, Phal:Angst have been cultivating something all their own since 2007’s debut для одной руки. The hushed snarled singing is vastly different to any of the vocalists in the aforementioned bands standing out as bleak and broken against the all out assault. Members include Ph on vocals, metallophone, additional electronics, al on guitar and bass, and Angst on electronics.
Heavy pianos tiptoe against light synths immediately make a beautiful opening in the first seconds of Whiteout. Guitar chords, sprinkled in sparingly, allow this lushness to build an anticipation for a collapse into an abyss of noise. But each new note adds another layer of beauty to freely submerge yourself. Well past the halfway point we finally hear the strange amalgamation of whispered snarled vocals. Eventually a guitar riff comes in but, instead of a cathartic bottoming out of noise, it gracefully adds in the final level of atmosphere.
A chilly, detuned guitar passage starts Severance makes for a bleak void of a listen. The bastardized reimagining of the most famous lyrics from The Sound of Music’s So Long, Farewell take the classic memories associated with that song, flips it on its head then shakes it up making something unloving and angular. A direct quote from Macbeth twists and contorts my recollection of reading it in high school and has me really thinking about it more than my English teacher ever could. Jarboe, formerly of Swans and owner of a very prolific solo career, provides a remix titled A Tale Of Severance. If the Severance sounds like a distortion of vague memories, the Jarboe remix feels like a plunge into the mind of a lunatic. Here the Macbeth quote begins and repeats with guitar notes carrying on uncomfortably long.
A strong Swarm of the Sun influence, particularly from my personal favorite album of theirs The Rifts, is hard not to notice on Least Said: Soonest Mended. The keys swiftly flutter adding dimension to the guitars as pleasant moments, free from any dark terror that’s been present since the album’s start, are replaced by a gentle display of jaw-dropping gorgeousness.
familiar enough to feel like home; while still alien, and uncomfortable enough to cause some serious change to the psyche…
What Rests Mute In Bright Corners teeters so close to being a complete crumbling mess ready to collapse by the sheer weight and number of moving parts, but it, somehow, manages to keep everything afloat. Crashing crescendos come from every instrument and the vocals, for the first time, stand at the forefront and leak pent up emotions, like some sort of heartache, held for too long, finally lets out bit by bit.
Beginning with feedback, digital drums, field recordings and soft keys that all climb in volume leading to the cold, clinical feel to Unhinged. It’s the only track on the album where you can really feel the giant length of time. That’s not a dig. It’s a slow burn of a track that’s enhanced by another remix, this time done by Lustmord, where the deep, hollowed bass hums ceaselessly as the shadowy vocals add to the detached feel. Keys build and distort making me feel physically ill by the methodical nature as the line ‘if only we were quiet, just for one day’ repeats so dissonant, dissected, and inhuman.
More haunting field recordings, and a beautiful meandering of chords, make What A Time To Be Alive an appropriately somber reflective closing track. There’s no crazy left turn here and at no point do all the layers come crashing down. Twangy guitars atop echoing drums stretch with crooning lyrics about ‘coming to enjoy the wonders of life’. The singing’s reclusive nature blends and fades into the background. It’s like the dark shadow that’s been present from the start is finally fully exposed to light and then disappearing. Maybe this soundscape Phal:Angst has made is a pocket just familiar enough to feel like home; while still alien, and uncomfortable enough to cause some serious change to the psyche.
Scribed by: Richard Murray