CD, 2006, The Egg and We, Minsk. Available
Paintings by Rudolf Eb.er
Sometimes, when I see a film, or hear an album, the experience is so intense and affecting that I essentially refuse to experience it again — probably for fear of spoiling that initial exposure. Such is the case with 6 by Dave Phillips. I’m listening to it now, for the first time in years, and the second time ever. I might not be alone, here, since Phillips’ work is known for provoking strong reactions; particularly his live ‘video actions’, which combine depictions of animal abuse with equally visceral sonic accompaniments. This audience discomfort is something Phillips is well-versed in, being a member of Schimpfluch Gruppe — a loose collective with five prominent artists at its core: Rudolf Eb.er (Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck, and founder of the collective), Joke Lanz (Sudden Infant), Marc Zeier (G*PARK), Daniel Löwenbrück (Raionbashi, and owner of the Tochnit Aleph label and Rumpsti Pumsti record shop), and Phillips himself. The group is synonymous with work that challenges its audience, with the Vienna Aktionists often considered a potent influence. Apart from Zeier, whose activities are more obviously directed towards sound, the Schimpfluch members all have a distinct performance art aspect to their work; they often evoke a sense of ritual, and involve a physical/psychological testing of the performer.
Phillips’ recorded work is just as visceral and compelling as his live performances. If you were concise, you could perhaps point to two defining aspects of his recordings: the utilisation of field recordings as drone, and of silence to create tension. Phillips’ use of the former reflects not only an interest in the sounds themselves, but a wider, all-encompassing, ecological concern: often using long field recordings of hinterland environments and their insects, birds, and animals. These sounds will sometimes be left as is, allowing the listener to hear the wealth of life that their species is intent on destroying; or, at other times, processed and layered into overwhelming walls of noise, magnifying that wealth, its right to existence, and its damage. The second key element, Phillips’ use of silence, is something he shares with the equally tense constructions of Eb.er. Both artists create tracks where long, brooding silences are interrupted by short, jarring blasts of sound. These intrusions are often bursts of acoustic noise or vocal/bodily sounds, and they really do feel like punches to the gut. They convey a genuine sense of dread: the listener knows they can expect another jolt, but is never prepared for it when it arrives. This is not casual listening.
6 combines both of these elements, and more besides. The CD comes in an unusually-sized, gatefold wallet adorned with a painting by Eb.er. This appears to depict a human figure being poured from a pipe — or sucked up into it, it’s unclear; the presence of a third hand is equally mysterious, and it all conspires to create an atmosphere similar to Francis Bacon: malleable flesh and volatile bodies. The album contains twenty-three tracks, ranging in length from a mere five seconds, to nearly thirteen-and-a-half minutes. The titles flit between wordy aphorisms (sometimes obscured, sometimes more direct), brute questions (How Many More Are We Prepared To Sacrifice For Cheaper Petrol In Our Cars?), and pithy provocations (I Curse You And All Your Kind). All (bar the last track, which is titled in memory of Omar Tomasoni) are stark and finger-pointing, at both the reader and the wider world. This sense of militant confrontation carries through to the uncompromising sounds within. Indeed, the album begins with almost a direct challenge to the listener. Where Affluence Is The Rule, The Main Threat Is The Loss Of Desire, is a short track, 128 seconds in length; however, we are forced to endure 114 seconds of silence before Phillips makes any move — a jarring thud, followed by the sound of swarming bees. The unease and confusion this beginning causes, leading to an inevitable checking of volume controls and play buttons, sets the tone for the rest of the ride.
6 is oddly concentrated and utterly disparate at the same time. Whilst the sounds used by Phillips are arguably drawn from a narrow range of sources — field recordings, body sounds, ‘junk percussion’, and electronic sounds (to mention the main ones) — giving the album a clear cohesion, they are deployed in highly unconventional structures. These constructions never give the listener any sense of what’s coming next: they are not allowed to settle or rest easy in the album. The longer passages just as quickly establish patterns as they do collapse inwards. Feeding out of and into these are tortuous sections of sturm und silence, with the listener held fast by interruptions of pounding bangs, pained shouts, and earsplitting shrieks. It’s an album that rarely sits still, yet the listener is given little choice but to sit still.
For a ‘noise’ album, 6 rarely gets particularly harsh or saturated in the ‘traditional’ way; but there are moments where Phillips assumes a more aggressive, assaultive stance. I Curse You And All Your Kind is fifty-five seconds of distorted screaming over a ripping noise loop, the closest the album gets to power electronics. The Debility Of Their Reactions Accompanies The Decadence Of Their World is a tangled cacophony of mangled animal-like voices, punctuated by metallic whipping sounds. Phillips also uses unpleasant tones and frequencies, like the dissonant trumpet strangulations in The Self Some Imagine Surviving Death Is A Phantom Even In Life — yes, you could throw po-faced pretentiousness at some of the titles, but their weight is genuine and carried through; something like The Self… brutally works the brain. However, the bulk of 6 thrives on the use of quiet and silence to heighten its dominant atmosphere of tension, unease, and dread. These are two important, often over-looked, weapons in noise’s arsenal. The general movement is often towards creating monolithic tracks or performances, which obliterate and occupy the listener’s space; however, an approach like Phillips’ allows the listener’s environment to seep through, creating a tension between the recording/performance and the environment it’s in, with the listener suspended somewhere between.
6 ends rather quietly, emphasising the field recording element of the album: a long droning piece (over thirteen minutes) composed of insect, bird, and amphibian sounds, a short burst of interrupted silence, and then nearly ten minutes of restful, if sombre, rainfall and resonating piano. The overt ecological aspect of these two long tracks — the longest on the album — is part and parcel of a vigorous set of ideas that runs through all of Phillips’ work. He collects these trails in the notion of ‘humanimal’, which he defines as ‘a progressive, empathic conscience that understands the human animal as part of a whole and has overcome the erroneous religious, material and supremacist phases of evolution’. Whilst Phillips’ work is overwhelmingly and unapologetically political, it’s a body of work that centres itself around difficult questions rather than easy answers. A precise position on the political spectrum is rarely stated, but Phillips’ humanimal stands against exploitative systems, fundamentalism (‘truth is invented by liars’), and anthropo-centralisation; ‘humanimal’s enemy is waste’. Perhaps the neatest summary might be, ‘humanimal figures that since each being has just the one life and since we all share the same planet that it’s about time we learned to get along’. This might stink of hippies, but Phillips would spit on their humanist concerns — ‘humanimal reckons that there are too many assholes on this planet. and not enough suicides’. However, his politics are notably, and noticeably, opposed to ‘the right’ — a position which is perhaps unusual in the overall industrial/power electronics landscape.
Regardless of the actual politics held, where explicitly political imagery, ideas, and opinions are deployed in industrial music or power electronics, they tend to originate from strong right-wing positions; however, Phillips is not alone in his difference. Whilst not exactly numerous, there are several projects who use distinctly leftist or anarcho themes. Perhaps the most obvious contemporary — although recently quiet — example is the Swedish power electronics project, Barrikad, whose releases contain regular visual and textual references to violent struggle. The booklet accompanying Through the Voice One Becomes Animal (Nil By Mouth, 2013), quotes Ulrike Meinhof (of the Red Army Faction) in its introduction before presenting a long extract from the incendiary tract, The Coming Insurrection. Mourmansk 150, from France, are another project with equally volatile emissions. Their website demands: ‘The complete annihilation, extermination, destruction, ruination, violent collapse & permanent extinction of ALL oppressive forces & political tyranny through VIOLENT ACTION-DIRECT FATAL CONFRONTATION-LETHAL COLLISION.’ Just as strident, the raw attack of the Russian Kriminaaliset Metsänhaltijat raises a black flag high; whilst Shallow Waters examine class conflict through their stinging skree. Black Bloc (also the name of a Svartvit track) take their moniker from the tactic popularised by anarchists/autonomists — literally a block of people, all dressed and masked in black to hinder identification by state forces during demonstrations/actions — as well as using Crass-esque stencil lettering. Titles like Globalized Resistance: The Arming Of Our Desires (Abandonment, 2009), are a clear indication of the project’s territory; whilst the ecological themes of No Innocent Civilians (self- released, 2010) echo the work of Phillips. These concerns are also foregrounded in the HNW of Bleak Existence (sample album title: Love Earth Hate People [Narcolepsia, 2014]), whose World Downfall project pursues more ‘traditional’ anarchist themes: Anti-Work, Self-Organization, and Alienated Labor to name a few titles. Militia have released albums like The Black Flag Hoisted (Tactical Recordings, 2000) and Eco-Anarchic Manifesto (Malignant Records/Tactical Recordings, 2003), with a sound that owes something to the metal-bashing of Test Dept — themselves no strangers to agitation, recording an album with the South Wales Striking Miners Choir (and gigging together) at the height of the violently acrimonious miner’s strike in the UK (1984–85). To go even further back, the first single from seminal industrial act SPK contains a track called Slogun; this has lyrics inspired by the 1970s Marxist group Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv (one of a number of interpretations of SPK’s acronym), who saw mental illness as the result of capitalism. The shouted words
kill kill kill for inner peace
bomb bomb bomb for mental health therapy through violence
working circle explosives
echo the group’s manifesto and slogans; the ‘working circles’ were the method of organisation used by the collective.
Clearly, there are not a lot of examples of power electronics or industrial acts who use leftist or traditional anarcho themes — they are far outnumbered by those who use themes from the right; but despite this apparent gulf, they share similar tools and methods of attack. I’m loathe to use the term ‘shock’, because it’s so loaded; but there’s a desire to jar, to violently unsettle, to overwhelm the audience in the grim and harsh aspects of reality in order to provoke reflection on that reality, and their role within it. In that sense, Dave Phillips is little different to the Filth & Violence label (to choose a rigorous counterweight); from his uncompromising video actions, to his assertions that insects are of more worth than humans, to his participation in confrontational Schimpfluch Gruppe performances. One of his sets at the Extreme Rituals: A Schimpfluch Carnival festival, in Bristol, 2012, ended with him plunging the venue into darkness and unleashing a thundering quadrophonic recording that surrounded the audience, whilst several women ran through the crowd, screaming. It was an incredibly intense experience. Phillips is interesting, because he combines an approach that is quite often cerebral, bordering on electroacoustics, with other elements that are much more base or physical: sounds of nature, sounds of the body, sounds of violence. This is taken to vulgar, bawdy levels, with tracks like Empires Of Scientific Capability That Manipulate The Phenomena Of Nature Into Enormous Manifestations Of Humankind’s Own Dreams Of Power, Wealth And Control and The Absurd Belief That The Worst Of People, For The Worst Of Reasons, Will Somehow Work For The Benefit Of Us All (On Organised Religion, Politics And Economics), which both feature manipulated recordings of burps and belches — an earthy obsession with physicality, that again brings to mind Filth & Violence. (Obviously I’m making this comparison for effect, but as a curious side note, it may be through Phillips’ They Live album (RRRecords, 2009) that many noise fans have a swastika-adorned record sleeve in their house.)
Whilst Phillips’ layered belching might comment on greed and overconsumption, it’s also quite deliberate rudeness — schoolboy-level crudity designed to get the attention of, mock, and offend teacher, the guardian of ‘order’. ‘[H]umanimal endorses offensive and inappropriate behaviour that is sometimes necessary and often healthy in order to break down unnatural restrictions or inhibitions.’
To expand from this to more general thoughts on power electronics and industrial projects, I believe that modern living has given us a word with which we can better make sense of the traditional modus operandi of these genres: ‘trolling’. I don’t say this to belittle these projects, nor to make light of internet trolling, but I think it offers an easy to understand model for what is generally occurring here. Trolling (deliberately inflammatory postings on social media, forums, etc., to provoke a response) is a perfectly modern phenomenon. It is most often associated with base nastiness and cruelty: deliberate, blunt attacks to upset and attack the target in any way. This is clearly echoed in the arguably ‘standard’ use of extreme imagery, presentation, subject matter, and text in power electronics: identify something taboo and then amplify every aspect of it — leave no path untrodden. However, there is also the explicitly politicised intent of some trolling: publicly mocking political figures or organisations, or tricking them into social media faux pas, often deploying intelligence and cunning.
(The work of satirist Chris Morris, for example, would fit in here quite happily. His announcement of the death of politician Michael Heseltine (who was quite alive) live on radio, or his sacking for filling a Radio Bristol studio with helium during a news bulletin, seem to be acts reminiscent of a power electronics outlook.) This more considered approach perhaps finds its sonic counterpart in an album like Am Not’s Unpunished (Unrest Productions, 2015); with its careful, controlled constructions, and precise lyrics, it’s been one of the best recent recordings in noise, full stop. So, if we can detach ourselves from the subject at hand, we might consider there to be a ‘low’ form of trolling, and a ‘high’ form; though it would be fair to say that these definitions don’t really map across to power electronics so simply. However, both forms remain trolling, and power electronics, whatever the approach, remains power electronics; and this raises a certain, shared quality: both are somewhat impervious to any meaningful criticism. There is ostensibly little point in arguing with a troll; whilst it is easy to sit here and suggest ‘ignore them’, it is nevertheless true that they thrive on response. This perhaps highlights one of the issues with power electronics as an antagonistic device: it is indeed largely ignored. Gigs do get cancelled, the odd critical (and often confused) article gets written, but by and large, it’s a reasonably closed circle that doesn’t encroach on the mainstream. The objects of power electronics’ attacks (‘wider society’, for example) will never have a chance to experience those jolts, as said attack was released in a limited edition of 200 to be bought by those within power electronics. It’s a feedback loop, an echo chamber. Any provocations (and resulting conflicts) largely happen within the scene itself. The ‘victim’ is essentially unaware of their victim status.
“Long ago I reached the conclusion that if power electronics/extreme electronics (call it what you will) is being performed only to ‘the converted’, it is nothing more than entertainment and those pumping out the noise, nothing more than entertainers, to be listed in a sub genre file that sits not far from the established bands file.” —Trev Ward, The Grey Wolves
To crudely attempt to drag the spotlight back to Dave Phillips — not that much of his work would be considered power electronics — one (partial) solution to the above problem, is his incessant gigging, often performing lengthy tours as far and wide as possible, and handing out leaflets to supplement the ideas of his performances. However, like noise in general, his recorded output remains the main medium of transmission, creating a varied, solid body of work that is rigorous, coherent, and consistent. 6 is a supreme entry in this body, mixing high and low into a genuine assault on the listener, sacrificing neither intelligence nor brute physicality in his cause. ‘proceed with inquiry.’
Дэйв Филипс известен как один из участников легендарного семейства перформанс-групп, объединённых под крылом лэйбла Schimpfluch. В последнее время он существенно расширил поле своей деятельности, вспомнив свою старую анархо-панк-группу Fear of God и выступая в составе супергруппы Ohne, посетившей в 2003 году и Россию. Тем не менее, он не прекращает занятия сольным творчеством, выпуская альбомы без названий, снабжённые только порядковым номером… таким образом, данный альбом - уже шестой. Вышел он на белорусском лэйбле Egg And We Music, где ранее был выпущен концерт Ohne в Минске. Музыка Филлипса - это передовой фронт шумового хардкор-акционизма, шокирующего своим непристойным поведением, привлекающего внимание к нечистотам и отбросам, вспарывающего внутренности организма при помощи музыки, в которой не осталось ничего музыкального с классической точки зрения. Дикие крики, оглушающая тишина, насекомые звуки вроде писка комаров и снования муравьёв, какая-то тихая возня и неожиданный грохот, стоны то ли от боли то ли от истомы, рваное дыхание и бессловесный шёпот - вот мир грёз Филлипса, его стратегия взаимодействия с окружающим миром. И её можно уловить и понять, если внимательно прослушать альбом от начала до конца.(Дмитрий Васильев, The Sound)
There is of course a lot of noise music out there, but there is only a handful people that do something that is really interesting. Merzbow provides the real thing, R.H. Yau and Dave Phillips do their own thing in the field of noise music, and they do a more than excellent job. ‘6’ is Dave Phillips latest offering and it is a true blow. Phillips has been a member of Schimpfluch Gruppe, Fear Of God, Ohne and Dead Peni, but his true power is in his solo work. He blends together field recording, real noise, insect recordings, cracked electro acoustic sound and voice together in a truely fascinating manner. Not always loud, in fact hardly loud, but in a true collage style: moments of sheer silence are cut off with segments of cracking objects, insect sounds, speeding up tapes, people shouting on the street and then perhaps, perhaps, silence again. Twenty-three tracks in total, all with a super-long title, but this is best experienced as one long track. The dramatic impact is so much greater. Play this loud and you’ll be scared shitless. It might be no coincidence that’s halloween today? Noise music isn’t about playing whatever in loud volume only, but deals with all forms of sound that are put in some context, tells us a rather unpleasant story, which in Phillips case is all about religion and the wars it lead to. A very very clever release, and establishes once again Phillips as a master of noise.(Frans De Waard, VITAL)
The Swiss Aktionist Dave Phillips has always had a knack for silence. But his use of still moments has nothing in common with the specialized hush of Bernhard Gunter, as a startling rupture always follows. Phillips’s silences explode into noise collages - a hammer dropping on wood, a gargled scream and a piece of glass being shattered are just a few of his startling punctuations. Like much of Phillips’s solo work, 6 is highly physical in its use of the dynamics between silence and noise, digressing into occasional bouts of puerile political comedy, such as the belched chorus on ‘The Absurd Belief That The Worst Of People, For The Worst Of Reasons, Will Somehow Work For The Benefit Of All Of Us (On Organised Religion, Politics And Economics).’ All 23 of 6’s tracks sport similar anarcho-political titles, whose agenda is articulated by Phillips’s manipulated recordings of insects, which express his misanthropic belief that we may be no better than the common fly.(Jim Haynes, THE WIRE, Issue 275)
Независимый белорусский звукозаписывающий лейбл The Egg And We Music издал свой третий релиз – альбом ‘6’ представителя швейцарской экспериментальной сцены, одного из основателей артистического движения Schimpfluch Gruppe, участника квартета OHNE Дэйва Филлипса. На своем новом диске музыкант продолжает опыты с психоакустикой, полевыми записями, рвотными реакциями и насекомыми. В оформлении альбома использована живопись Рудольфа Эбера. Лично у меня не возникло желание второй раз слушать эту работу, автор которой слишком увлечен экспериментом и забывает о самой музыке. Вольно или невольно создается впечатление, что она отражает ментальное состояние человека, страдающего тяжелым психическим расстройством. Это даже покруче, чем Sick Sick Sick проекта KEIN, который, я уже думал, никому не переплюнуть. Можно выделить только медитативный номер Song For Omar (кстати, это единственный трек, который имеет «нормальное» название), наполненный звуками дождя, сквозь который прорываются загадочные тихие звуки. С другой стороны, такая последовательность в производстве антимузыки вызывает если не понимание, то сочувствие.(Nestor)
Независимый белорусский звукозаписывающий лейбл The Egg And We Music сообщил об издании 9 октября своего третьего релиза - альбома ‘6’ представителя швейцарской экспериментальной сцены, одного из основателей артистического движения Schimpfluch Gruppe, участника квартета OHNE Dave Phillips. На своем новом диске музыкант продолжает опыты с психоакустикой, полевыми записями, рвотными реакциями и насекомыми. В оформлении альбома использована живопись Рудольфа Эбера. Дополнительная информация о Дэйве Филлипсе www.tochnit-aleph.com/dp . Заявки на приобретение альбома по специальной цене для резидентов Беларуси (6.000 BYR) принимаются по адресу(firstname.lastname@example.org, machinist music)
Upon first viewing the titles for the 23 tracks that comprise ‘6’, I couldn’t get passed the thought that they could have been chapter titles in a bad Chuck Palahniuk book. It wasn’t a good omen and I was slightly reluctant to press play. I’m glad I eventually did. The first thing that strikes me about ‘6’ is that it scares the shit out of me. I jumped out of my chair about 20 times over the 70 odd minute length. The most terrifying moments were those long stretches of silence or stable activity. I began to anticipate these unbearable bursts. I never really could anticipate it though, which unnerved me further. As a result, by the end I was mentally exhausted. Remember that part in Apocalypse now when the tiger jumps out from the jungle? No matter how many times I’ve seen it, that bit still makes me jump. 6 is like reliving that moment over and over. All of this could come across as a cheap ploy by Phillips to make up for the fact his music fails to unnerve in any meaningful way. It’s the old slasher movie dictum wherein if you can’t create a true sense of dread just give em a cheap fright. Thankfully though, I don’t get this feeling from ‘6’. Ultimately the frights only make up a small portion. Everything is so minutely and expertly composed that through the exhaustion a real joy can be garnered from the mastery of the composition. It’s perhaps a tad overlong but definitely a worthwhile experience.(sound plague, www.ihatemusic.com)