Phantom Limb & Bison Phantom Limb & Bison

[Evolving Ear; 2007]

Styles: electro-acoustic improvisation
Others: Keith Fullerton Whitman, David Daniell, Ethan Rose

The quantity of releases in any genre can lead to the impression that over a long enough timeline, many albums begin to sound quite similar. What is it then that makes certain artists stand out? What makes their work so much better, more enjoyable, or interesting than that of others? I wish I had an answer, something to provide an adequate reason beyond personal taste that explains why I enjoy the music of an artist such as Keith Fullerton Whitman and yet find this album by Phantom Limb & Bison so unappealing. On a purely aesthetic level, their works certainly share many attributes, but where Whitman has the ability to pull the listener into a self-created world of graceful tension and release, Phantom Limb & Bison fail.

The liner notes indicate that half of the album was recorded live and the other in the studio. Like most other music in this style, you’d never know which was which if there weren’t indicators. Phantom Limb & Bison fill out the space with esoteric patterns of drone over which the band drapes minimal, minor-key guitar noodling. It follows the usual arc of quiet building into a dramatic crescendo. The pieces never seem to captivate, though, and instead feel like an exercise in tedium. By the time the first track “Great Wide” started to take off, I was already flipping through some of the others to see where this album might be headed. Through my preview of them, and eventual exposure to the entirety, I couldn’t find much that would bring me back in the long run. This isn’t to say that Phantom Limb & Bison are untalented; those with an unusually unquenchable thirst for electro-acoustic music might find this album captivating. And while it doesn’t provide anything new or vastly attention-grabbing, it is at the very least a pleasant listen.

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