Review: Phanes – Phanes (2035, Jul 5)

Information about the relatively new Paris-based label 2035 Records is sparse, but their small yet formidable catalog speaks for itself. Static-jazz freakout session 18 Luglio was already among my favorites of the year, and now I’ve been introduced to Phanes, a duo whose approach to collaborative improvisation on their debut self-titled release is even more unexpected and uncompromising than that of Where Is Mr. R?. “00000001” (all of the track titles are binary values) is the longest track by far and takes the “metronomic” descriptor to a new level; throughout the six-minute track, electronics operator Luca Ventimiglia and drummer Augustin Bette play what sounds like a game of sci-fi racquetball, any complexities only emerging within the confines of the obstinate tempo. It turns out that each piece is produced with some variation of that adherence to repetition, and piece by piece more of the character of each musician’s contributions is revealed in fleeting snippets, every section a taut, unique cell of volatile incessance. Even in the most mechanical of moments, when it more closely resembles a recording inside a futuristic clock store or a painfully slow copier spitting out pages, there is enough innate imperfection and flexibility to the music that it’s unlikely one would ever mistake them for anything other than a human creation. One could place Phanes somewhere in an complex stylistic family tree, that would imply their sound is a combination of things, and it actually feels more like a distillation than anything: the outermost membranes of electronic and improvised music boiled out, reconstituted, and delicately reshaped.

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