Many dark ambient CDs look to take their listeners by force, launching a grim, grinding gnash of an assault, tearing open a psychic wound and ripping a response straight out of their chest. On his new release, His Master’s Voice, the artist called Phaenon takes a far more insidious approach . After the first few raspy, sharp-edged minutes of the opening track, “His Master’s Voice, Part 1: Neutrino Radiation,” the heavily layered sounds begin to resonate cautiously, the frequency slowly matching the listener’s own, pulling them in until the two achieve a sort of sonic symbiosis that lasts for the rest of the disc. Having established that resonance, Phaenon takes his sounds and digs into and dredges out the darkest corners of the mind, loosening what’s there and holding it up for the listener to see. It’s as effective as any good dark ambient work, but in this listener’s opinion, the difference and the improved listenability is in the approach, the subtlety of sound involved. It elevates the experience by not fully alienating the listener. It’s an isolationist work, but it’s understandably isolationist.
His Master’s Voice is built around hesitantly shifting greyscale drones, thick, solid and weighty. The majority of sounds rise up from the lowest end of the scale, all the better to resonate you with, and Phaenon easily shifts from wall-of-sound density to well-thought-out sparcity.There are only four tracks here, the shortest clocking in at over 12 minutes, so there is plenty of time to cut yourself adrift and just be in Phaenon’s textures and constructs.
Kudos also have to go out to cover artist Eric Lacombe. His dark style, which reminds me a lot of artist/comic book illustrator Dave McKean, fits the tone of this disc perfectly. Disturbing, but imbued with a strange beauty from which you can’t look away.
Available from Malignant Records.