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Phonophani - Oak or Rock

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Artist: Phonophani

Album: Oak or Rock

Label: Rune Grammofon

Review date: Jan. 31, 2005

According to his label’s website, the title of Phonophani’s third album signals composer-programmer Espen Sommer Eide’s wish to “rediscover the great mystery of music” by exploring the connections between material things. Ironically, Eide’s methodology tends to sunder those connections.

He uses self-devised software to transform sounds that originally came from so-called real instruments, particularly a vibraphone and piano, as well as the human voice. Sometimes he accentuates qualities that are already there; the organ tones that bubble up through “Take Off Your Wooden Coat” sound as soft and squishy as the animated sheep in those Serta mattress commercials look. Other times, he scrapes away the familiar; the vibes and feedback on “Blind Birds of the Antarctic” have been digitally splintered until their edges are as sharp as a filleting knife.

Phonophani’s music isn’t offensive; quite the contrary, most of it percolates rather pleasantly in the background in a Lithops-lite kind of way. But only the overlapping, degraded horn riffs on the title track and Maja Ratke’s feral squeals on “Cloudberry” summon strong emotions. Maybe the problem lies with the names that Eide has given his pieces. The eighth track’s bobbing blips don’t make me think of “Animals”; “Bar Graphs on a Luminous Screen” would be closer to the mark. Instead of evoking the organic qualities of stone and wood, or getting at the atomic-level bonds between things, Eide’s digital transformations bring to mind the bright, banal glare of fluorescent lighting.

By Bill Meyer

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