Phew – Phew

Phew – Phew - ?/5

Sometimes I listen to something so batshit insane, so absurd that I can't even decide whether or not I like it let alone what on earth to call it. This music is Avant-Garde beyond the normal Avant-Garde; it's a musical paradox that both fits under no genre ever made and yet somehow exists. It's like some sort of weird musical black hole that plods along, and you just know it would have to be a Japanese chick who would come up with it. At best it sounds like some bizarre Japanese form of Krautrock in the same vein as Kraftwerk, or glitch-like in the manner DAT Politics are (except not), and it comes as little surprise that she had some Krautrock musicians help her with this release. Most of the time it just sounds like a girl spacing out, tilting her head to one side and with a completely blank expression imagining the theme tune for “The Magic Roundabout.” To call this experimental is putting it mildly, and this is probably going to be one of the most difficult reviews I've ever had to explain.

If I had to call it anything I'd probably go with “anti-pop,” and yes I'm fully aware I'm making that name up; it's as though someone asked her if she wanted to be a pop musician and she responded by laughing maniacally and after an awkward pause broke the silence by doing an Egyptian dance whilst throat singing. Her vocals aren't cutesy or even melodic. They're blank and expressionless and yet even in her dead lines a weird atmosphere comes across, as though she's completely void of all emotion inside; a blank canvas that has no desire to be filled. Everything seems to have been constructed with the sole purpose of sounding as difficult to describe as humanly possible; as completely anti-mainstream as can be imagined. There's almost some sort of folkiness to the proceedings but matched with the electronic backing it just doesn't quite fit. There are African drums at some stages, piano lines at others and glitch-like electronics at others; saxophone lines and samples of what sounds like gunfire and miners thrown in for good measure. It's all constructed on such a slow paced and minimalist scale that I often want to refer to it as ambient but even that description falters.

And yet somehow it's all tethered to her hypnotic vocal lines; these horrendous vocals that sound like a drunk girl at a karaoke bar that believes herself a great singer yet sounds like a drowning cat. They really are awful, and if they weren't they simply wouldn't work in this release; in an album this dissonant and off the wall, what good would ordinary vocals do? They change pitch in a manner you would never expect and are completely erratic in behaviour; they're warbly and all over the place – which works particularly well with the nonsensical electronic beats and guitar work – and never seem to have any semblance of following the rhythm behind it. It's impossible to adequately rate because I need to gauge it's success at what it's trying to accomplish, and if it's intention is to sound as bad as possible, then do I write it as an awful release? Or one that accomplishes it's intended goal perfectly? This is almost like a B-Movie; you know it's going to be bad and yet for some reason you still find oddly enjoyable to listen to. This is an album that at just over half an hour long completely baffles me, and as a proud scout of the Avant-Garde, that doesn't happen often, let alone by a release now thirty years old. Do I recommend it? Only if you don't mind a musical mindfuck.

Highlights: Signal, Mapping, P-Adic