Phonophani Phonophani

[Biophon/Rune Grammofon; 1998]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: experimental electronic, minimalism, glitch, modern composition
Others: Jazzkammer, Supersilent, Sachiko M

Espen Sommer Eide might epitomize the Norwegian Rune Grammofon label's aesthetic. As the sole musician behind Phonophani and one half of the Fennesz-ian duo Alog, the sound artist has been a part of only a handful of the label's releases, but those albums rank among the imprint's best and most exemplary. Eide's recordings evidence much time spent with all manner of post-WWII avant-garde music; Terry Riley's elliptical keyboard excursions, Klaus Schulze's cosmische musik, Disco Inferno's sample-driven post-rock, Luc Ferrari's cinematic collages, and Miles Davis's studiously edited electric ensemble work being but a few of the explosive events evoked and reawakened. And while Eide's palate appears fiercely eclectic and exhaustingly far-reaching when compared to those of even his most daring labelmates, his and their records similarly channel experimental fundaments into immediate, organic compositions, the type of gateway drug music perfect for opening pop listener's ears up to more far-out sounds.
This disc, Phonophani's 1998 debut, was originally released in a limited edition on Biosphere's Biophon, and it both predicts many of the Norwegian pop/avant-garde collisions that Rune Grammofon would later document and expands upon the possibilities suggested by the less adventurous contemporaneous IDM scene. In short, this is the record you've always wished Boards of Canada would make. Laptop psychedelia and post-shoegaze hazes stretch out into long ambient waves, much like a modern update of Kraftwerk's Autobahn. Natural sounds and cold, mechanical tones also mingle well — a rare feat on many electronic albums — and sometimes even confuse themselves with one another. In "I.F.A.", for instance, the scrapes, skittles, and throbs could come from a bustling factory floor or industrial-strength percussion. This record is more than a menacing acid trip, though tracks like "Zumas" and "Duration-Happiness" work with intricate key lines and soothing string arrangements, foreshadowing the chamber music overtones of a later Phonophani album, Oak or Rock.
It's a pleasure to have this record available for mass consumption, although it's important to note that it isn't without its limits. The three bonus tracks emphasize a problem that happens occasionally in other songs: they're too spacious and minimal. Instead of speaking as poignantly as other sections, Eide's silences and long tones can sometimes feel blank or barren. There aren't enough of these slips to spoil the listening experience though, which makes this release as worth checking out as anything else from its creator or label.
  1. I.F.A.
2. Ring
3. Zumas
4. No Strangeclock
5. Duration-Happiness
6. Kaliphoni
7. C
8. Order of Disappearance
9. Sol
10. Minne & Materie
11. The Boy in His Bathtub
12. Farger Rundt Hvitt
13. Kreta