This is indeed essential listening. Because whether or not it is the best Norwegian electronica album, it’s an amazing electronica album period, and my favorite little Norwegian label has done us all a favor by re-pressing Espen Sommer Eide’s first effort under this moniker. I dare you to listen to this and not have to wrap your brain around the fact that Eide was pulling this shit in 1998, because what is most amazing is how acutely this record eerily anticipates many of the prominent trends that would become so popular with electronic music between 2000 and 2002.
Now reissued, his 1998 debut has the muted feel of worn-out tapes, or music listened to whilst submerged in water, the occational clear frequency cutting free from the muffled mass. ”Phonophani” could be considered a distant cousin of Boards Of Canada in its deliberate distancing and woozy nostalgia, but the music itself bears little resemblance.
The Wire (UK)
Originally released back in 1998 in a limited quantity (500) on Biosphere’s Biophon label, the debut effort from Phonophani is a gem of an album that’s fittingly getting a proper re-release from Rune Grammofon. A strange, eerie album created from filtered bits of what sounds like orchestral music and mutant electronic explorations, it doesn’t sound like it’s aged a bit in almost ten years. Just to sweeten the deal, three extra tracks from the same time period have been added to the re-release, filling it out a bit more and providing an even deeper glimpse as to what was being created at the same time. The album is definitely one of the more unique electronic albums that I’ve heard in awhile. Although it may seem like a vague statement to make, it’s a release that sounds like it should have a home on Rune Grammofon. Arriving somewhere between the experimental wanderings of Alog and the Nordic moans of Biosphere, it’s a weighty release that sucks you in and keeps on tugging at you until it’s all over with. Not only that, but the disc also has some of the best graphic design I’ve seen on an album this year, courtesty of the always-experimenting Kim Hiorthoy.
The first album from Bergen’s Espen Sommer Eide under the name Phonophani is remarkable. There’s no two ways about it, this is an essential album. It may be eight years old but sounds fresher than the vast majority of new albums that have come my way. From the second “I.F.A.” starts to the time the CD spins down I was captivated. With each listen I found new sounds and textures opening up. Huge segments of the album feel alien; it doesn’t sound like a human made some of this music. At other times Eide’s personality and mortality shine through, the looped acoustic guitar and gently sung vocals on “C” show this more than anywhere else. In contrast “Zurnas” has a gorgeous rhythm not unlike the kind of unorthodox beat that Coil would use. It’s like Eide has tapped into a transmission from another dimension. The off kilter rhythms continue throughout the album; they’re compelling but just weird enough to set you at unease. It is a beautiful album from all angles; the pieces are composed and played wonderfully, the production is top notch and the sleeve fits the otherworldly feel of the music.The Norwegian government must be adding something magical to the pickled herring. I can’t think of any other reason for so much good music coming from the north. Knowing that I’ve been missing out on it for eight years is annoying but I’m delighted to have heard it. Now it’s time for me to pick through the rest of Eide’s output.
This is a rather beautifully packaged re-issue of Espen Sommer Eide's debut album, originally released in a limited run on Biosphere's `Biophon' imprint in1998. I must say although I am familiar with most of the Norwegian artist's output I have never come across this album before, and it is a pleasure to explore the murky depths now, 8 years after it originally landed. Unsurprisingly many tracks here bear relation to the early work of Alog (which recently featured on the killer `Hold That Totem' collection), but they also manage to retain a life and soul of their own. Another fantastic release on the Rune Grammofon imprint, I do wonder occasionally when these guys are going to slip up?? Highly recommended.
Phonophani uses a fine blend of computer techniques, mainly of treated orchestral instruments, sometimes recognizable and sometimes entirely abstract, to which he adds a blend of synthesizer-like sounds, that is highly atmospherical but doesn't take the listener to an easy ride in the sky. Doom loaded in ”No Strangeclock”, this is even vaguely industrial sounding, bringing the album to a somewhat odd, but captivating mix of ambient, electronica and industrial music, without falling in the trap of being too dark or showing the inhumane. Warm music from a chilling country (climate wise, that is). Great music, and good to have back in print.
Vital Weekly (NE)
The 13 tracks on ”Phonophani” strike a compelling balance between vividly organic and computer-manipulated sonic palettes (he designs his own software), manifesting what could be scores for nature documentaries on undiscovered planets. Indeed, Phonophani's approach has led to music of profound mystery and novel timbres.
Data Breaker (US)
This self-titled debut, actually a reissue from 1998 (with three additional bonus tracks), is full of classic analog electronic sounds, acoustic instruments, and voice (sampled and sung) dragged through some facial-cleansing quality mud, resulting in a soundscape where nothing really juts out into the forefront, but with a background so spacious as to be vast, all sounds existing harmoniously within a cellular whole. It's not surprising to find out that Phonophani's Espen Sommer Eide uses customized software. The sounds are unnaturally natural, all seen through the same dirty window. Imagine the score to Forbidden Planet with its deliciously subtle creepiness and timelessness, aligned with a beautiful solemnity. How ideal is that?
Other Music (US)
On this debut release, Espen Sommer Eide assembles sounds, structures and atmospheres with impressive maturity and lays down the blueprint for his work both as Phonophani and as part of Alog. While the album doesn’t go as deep into experimental territories as its successors, it is, eight years after its original release, a surprisingly fresh-sounding and relevant collection of intricate electronic music.