Over the course of a dark, droning hour, Phobos’ Sector Four lays out textured, impressionistic ambient to capture the vastness of some as-yet-unexplored corner of space. If you are patient and enjoy a certain sparseness of sound, this album will suit you well. Artist David Thompson gives himself the full stretch of time to slowly build his imagery and while there is a constant dynamic at play, it’s certainly not in a hurry to get anywhere. Although it is a single long track, Sector Four feels like it passes through three stages. At first, Thompson keeps things on the very quiet side, using the long drones to cut your mind free and set it adrift. Which, of course, means you need to listen to it a few times to make sure you’ve heard all of it. You’re going to lose some listening time to spacing out. After about half an hour, Thompson subtly ups the intensity; the textures are more tactile, an edge of urgency works into the sound, and everything becomes a bit more full. The landscape remains vast and desolate, but now features more detail, more mystery. The changeover works especially well after you’ve been lulled into willing submission. In the last shift, the whole thing rises up in tone, density and intensity, brightening up like we’ve discovered something. The end of our journey is upon us. It’s not an all-at-once change, however. Thompson takes us around the far side of whatever place we’ve reached, passing through its shadow once more before being able to breathe easy and admire the view.
Admittedly, I wasn’t crazy about Sector Four when I first listened. The beginning is extremely sparse and it stays that way for a good long while. It was only later, having looped through it a couple of times, that Thompson’s patient plan became more evident and I was able to appreciate the subtlety of how the album shifts. There is a well-defined through-line in play, an arc that satisfactorily resolves itself if you give it time. In the meantime, the work here is solid ambient/dark spacemusic that stands up to a close listen but also shines at low volume. It’s got darkness without the weight and fear, and hits a good spacemusic feel without resorting to tropes. A voyage very much work taking more than once.
Available from Bandcamp.