Dave Phillips - ?

CD, 2010, HCB, Tel Aviv.   Available

Dp-hcb-026

mastered by Rashad Becker



REVIEWS

The Swiss Aktionist’s previous recordings have been extreme juxtapositions of furious noise and uncomfortable silence, but this album is a radical proposition. Recorded ‘during a period dominated by severe disturbances of loss, mental abysses and despair’, ? does not shy away from expressing those traits. Notes tapped on the lower register of a piano and a weeping accordion signify utter depression amid Phillips’s exceptional use of nocturnal field recordings. Owls, crickets, warehouse resonance and forest noises form a hallucinatory, slow-moving concoction; but it’s his use of the human voice that makes this album so unsettling. A male voice, pitchshifted to a demonic other, laughs and grunts amid spiralling snippets of a female voice caught somewhere between orgasm and pain. The interaction between these recurring voices reflects the voyeuristic qualities of Luc Ferrari’s concrète pieces, with Phillips pushing the psychosexual drama to the brink of self-annihilation.

(Jim Haynes, The Wire, July 2010)

Swiss noise artist Phillips has been knocking away at his chosen means of expression for a fair while now (since the ‘80s, in fact, when he was once in extreme hardcore punk outfit Fear Of God), but this is the first solo one of his I’ve really listened to and cannot say how it compares to previous works. Instead of the kinda expected out and out ‘noise’ assault, however,? collects compositions built around all manner of field recordings, metallic crashes, babbling textures and, indeed, the occasional tidal wave of static white attack. What’s most noticeable is the pervasive sense of genuine unease and moodiness, though. Throughout the layers of breathy vocals, groaning, minimal piano keys, swirling rumbles seemingly beamed in from the ether, cracking sounds, accordian, dissonant tones, birdsong and so on, an alarming amount of space and restraint is given to retaining an atmosphere that soaks on all from sombreness to something more distinctly menacing. If anything, there are vague parallels with some of Andrew Liles’ work, but perhaps with a rather more sober edge. No bad thing at all, as there’s only one Liles and, well, ? suggests yet another artist whose back catalogue must be well worth exploring in its own right. So much for my expectations. Those HCB boys have gone and done it again!

(Richard Johnson, www.fourth-dimension.net)

Un suggerimento, prima di tutto. Non ci si azzardi ad ascoltare quest’ultimo parto discografico dello sperimentalista svizzero Dave Phillips da soli e al buio. O, per lo meno, siate consapevoli del fatto che potrebbe turbare i vostri sonni per molti giorni a venire. Dieci tracce senza nome, per un disco ammaliante che – e il titolo enigmatico ci sta tutto – stimola la fantasia e i sensi, incuriosisce ed affascina, terrorizza e mette a disagio, mentre ci si continua a chiedere che cosa siano i suoni catturati nei solchi del cd. Field recordings pesantemente rimaneggiati, messi in loop, droni subacquei, versi di animali fatti girare al contrario, voci, grugniti e bisbigli, oltre a pregevoli incursioni di strumenti musicali come pianoforte e fisarmonica, compongono questo splendido lavoro licenziato dalla Heart & Crossbone, una label che non ha mai paura di spingersi oltre i limiti. Ogni brano è denso di personalità e vive di luce - ma sarebbe meglio dire oscurità - propria, lasciando all’ascoltatore il compito di chiudere gli occhi e creare con la mente le immagini a complemento, e magari mettersi a dare un persino nome ai suoni che avvolgono la mente. Così, la terza traccia potrebbe benissimo chiamarsi ‘Fuck With The Devil (Tribute To Rosemary’s Baby)’: l’amplesso di Satana con una (o più?) donne, grugniti bestiali si mescolano a gemiti femminili che si avvicinano sempre più ad un orgasmo – e si sentono pure le carni che sbattono! - mentre un polmone d’acciaio assieme a profonde e rarefatte pulsazioni di basso continuano a scandire il ritmo come un metronomo immerso nella melma. Dodici minuti di sublime incubo luciferino. C’è la pioggia (traccia 1), la notte (traccia 4) e i versi dei suoi rapaci che lasciano spazio ai rumori del traffico mentre una fisarmonica dal gusto francese incede indolente carica di malinconia. E ancora le note di pianoforte sempre più trasfigurate e soggette all’attrazione gravitazionale della traccia numero 5, l’ombra di Ligeti e Penderecki che si sposta furtiva in background ed emerge prepotente nell’ultima, strepitosa, traccia. E ancora, i Naked City più ambientali di Absinthe, lamenti agghiaccianti (traccia 9) che puzzano di tortura, orrore e la disperazione, e l’abisso che viene esplorato sin nei più reconditi anfratti. Impossibile resistere ad un disco del genere, emotivamente devastante.

(Valerio Spisani, Audiodrome)

40-летний гражданин швейцарского Цюриха Dave Phillips в кругах радикальных нонконформистов известен как убежденный последователь «бруитизма», некогда организовавший грайнд-кор группу FEAR OF GOD (1986-1988), затем авангардистские коллективы TOWER OF BEEF (1988-1994), PK (1991-1993), SCHIMPFLUCH-GRUPPE (1991-н.в.), SHITFUN (1995-1996), OHNE (2000-н.в.) и дум-сладж-метал «сам-себе-бэнд» DEAD PENI (2004-н.в.). Под собственным именем Dave Phillips записывается и выступает с 1987 года; много путешествует, активно коллекционирует всевозможные звуки и охотно делится со слушателями результатами своих полевых экспедиций, порой комбинируя их с голосовыми и инструментально-исполнительскими экспериментами. Круг своих художественно-прикладных интересов сам Phillips определяет понятиями «анимализм, гуманизм, бруитизм, голос, тело, конкретная музыка, полевые записи», а за его многочисленными звукотворческими опытами кроется «бихевиористская» симуляция условий среды обитания для познания прямых связей стимулов и реакций – и у исполнителя, и у слушателя. Десять безымянных электроакустических конструкций, собранных в апреле-июне 2009 года и составленных в альбом с вопросительным знаком вместо названия – это без малого 80 минут типичных для творчества Dave Phillips «аудио-симуляций». В основе – текстурно-постановочные шумовые сценки: обще-расслабляющие звуки природы, гудение копошащейся насекомой массы (предмет повышенного интереса артиста), диалоги и кряхтение совокупляющихся любовников, бытовые скрипы-шорохи и прочие акустические изыски, наводящие мысли, в частности, о рукотворном выбивании духа из орущей и чавкающей человеческой плоти. Впрочем, физиологически отталкивающих звуковых фрагментов и экстремальных голосовых экзальтаций в этот раз не так много. А вот композиционно-минималистских рефренов – рояль в низком регистре, скрипящая виолончель, резонирующий бас, фальшивящий аккордеон и т.п. – больше обычного. Доносящиеся из мониторов звуки порой напоминают монтажный аудио-ряд какого-то натуралистического фильма или абсурдистский китч. Самое интересное, что действо невольно затягивает, и с нетерпением ждешь того, что будет дальше. Но ничего особенного не происходит: разве что чьи-то тяжело удаляющиеся шаги и звук захлопывающейся двери в очередной раз напомнят о завершении еще одного трека. Диск хорошо слушается в режиме «постоянного повтора» – формального начала и конца у него просто нет, зато есть множество акустических подробностей, которые даются не с первого раза… У кого-то альбом действительно вызовет «вопросы», у кого-то – приступ черной тоски и беспричинного страха, или, напротив, разлив жизнетворных соков по чреслам, у большинства – естественное непонимание и негодование. Такова «современная психо-акустика», на передовом рубеже которой тестируются и сокрушаются психологические барьеры, общественные нормы и привычки. Притом, что это одна из самых «музыкальных» работ Dave Phillips, подходить к ней с мерилом «музыкальной эстетики» совершенно бессмысленно. Понимающим это слушателям, поклонникам де-фокусированного звукотворчества, конкретной музыки и нео-минимализма – рекомендуется настоятельно!


Given his pedigree as a founder member of grindcore legends Fear of God you’ll acknowledge that I am excused my decision to approach this album with both a sense of trepidation and an (un)healthy helping of rum. I was expecting to be confronted by a wall 30 second howls of apocalyptic rage and instead I’m being gently caressed by a set of introspective and vaguely psychedelic ambient(ish) pieces. Phillips has undergone a sea-change on this album and has shown a markedly different side to his creativity through the use of accordion, cello, piano & field recordings. The music is beautifully composed (in both senses of the word) with subtle nuances that reward repeated, and close, listens. It’s an absolute joy to hear a musician step waaaay outside his comfort zone and it’s an extra special joy when he does it this well.

(Wonderful Wooden Reasons)

Dave Phillips has been an architect of extreme sonics going all the way back to the mid-80’s, when he formed the uber-influential hardcore/noise band Fear Of God. Fear Of God’s short, violent blasts of hyper speed hardcore were an important catalyst in the development of grindcore, and the band was often cited in the same breath as Napalm Death for pioneering the genre. After the dissolution of Fear Of God, Phillips would go on to become involved with even more intense and visceral approaches to sound, leading him to the aktionist noise performance ensemble Schimpfluch-Gruppe. The performances and recordings of Schimpfluch-Gruppe would be excruciating affairs, combining short blasts of brutal noise with transgressive bouts of vomit-and-blood play, these aktions on the surface of it confrontational and disturbing. Since then, Phillips has struck out with a series of solo recordings which follow a similar strategy, the latest of which, ? comes to us from Israeli noise/metal label Heart And Crossbones, and it’s one of his creepiest recordings. ? continues in the disturbing, surreal vein as his other releases, but with a series of sounds that generates stronger feelings of fear and uneasiness, as if someone has commissioned Dave Phillips to create his version of a horror movie score. The ten tracks are based around field recordings that have been augmented with actual composed musical parts, like clusters of dark lower register piano that echo through recordings of rainfall and fields of mysterious clattering and clanging noises, Carpernter-esque synths, and distorted accordion drones and wisps of bowed cello strings that appear in between strange smooching and slapping sounds, a door being loudly shut (a recurrent sound that reappears throughout the album), droning insectile buzz, nocturnal forest sounds, random laughter, deep gong-like reverberations, brutally loud crashing metal, heavy footsteps, and crushing walls of white noise. Whenever vocal sounds appear on Phillips’s recordings, it’s usually in the form of grotesque vomiting or retching or choking sounds that assault the listener, but on ?, we hear voices that range from haunting (ghostly voices, angelic chorals) to the demonic (impossibly deep throat singing, and horrific screams of pain). Some of the most chilling moments on the album appear on the third and the final tracks: the former evolves into a disturbing soundscape of deep pitch-shifted beast-like groans and demonic grunting over the orgasmic moans and gasps of women that are looped over and over, a hallucinatory tangle of samples and grotesque voices that eventually morphs into an eerie chamber-string drone, later joined by recordings of owls, random backwards sounds run through trippy FX, and an sad, melancholic accordion melody; the last track is dark piano-led minimalism and Lustmordian blackness, the sounds all subtly warped and tweaked, creating an off-center, nightmarish feel that goes on for more than ten minutes. From beginning to end, this is an intense and agitated performance that has long empty fields of quiet torn apart by sudden eruptions of unsettling noise. Full color digipack packaging.

(Crucial Blast)

Noise. There are people out there, mainly youngsters devoted to noise, who think that I don’t like noise. They are mistaken, and should check their history lessons. But these days, noise doesn’t have my full attention anymore. I just heard too much of that, I guess, in those grey forgotten days. However sometimes I see something that is maybe ‘noise’ live and sometimes it blows me away. Sudden Infant for instance, very recently, and last year Dave Phillips. The former member of Fear Of God, a grindcore band, is connected to the Schimpfluch gang these days and his concert was a carefully constructed set of noise and silence. I may not have cared for the political overtones of his work, his noise went down pretty well. Its therefore with some anticipation that I played his new CD ’?’. It was recorded ‘during a period dominated by severe disturbances of loss, mental abysses and despair’ and yes, we are not in for some fun for the next eighty minutes. Normally I would complain about the length of such a release, but somehow it all seems to make sense here. The shortest piece is just over one minute, the longest just under sixteen. And it seems to be without the sort of noise those earlier mentioned youngsters care about: Phillips uses loops, piano, concrete sounds, very little sound effects, so all the sounds are as a dry as possible, cello, accordion and voice material (sighing, moaning, crying) and the sounds of torture the human body. Like I said, nothing conservative noise here, but quite a depressing album altogether. Low bass sound here and there, obscured field recordings and such like make up the backbone, and top these repeating sound fragments of instruments and voices. Bleak, dark stuff. Not much information on the cover to go by, but depression has not be made that clear in quite some time. A creepy record, not for the weak of heart and mind. That’s true noise for you.

(Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly)

This item by Dave Phillips is a true puzzler, though we should expect nothing less from a release called ?, and the task of bewilderment on a world-wide scale has long been the chosen career path of this experimenting absurdist from Switzerland. Those that have deeper digged than I into the European perplexment conspiracy will be more familiar with the ins and outs of the Schimpfluch cabal; Rudolf Eber’s record label of that name has featured the releases of similar marginal pranksters and noise-gods since 1990, among them Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck, Sudden Infant, and Wash Your Brains, although the Schimpfluch-Gruppe of which Dave Phillips is a member seems to be slightly different, even if its dates are roughly coincident and its grand scheme for the worldwide implementation of absurdity roughly overlaps. Further clues may also be found from the back catalogue of Tochnit Aleph in Berlin, perhaps. Heart & Crossbone, for their part, may be in the camp of those who revere Fear Of God, a Swiss grindocre noise band which existed for about a year in 1987, probably by word of mouth. Dave Phillips was the bass player for that band, although one suspects that with his disposition and ideas, he contributed a lot more than jut playing the bass. Perhaps uncharacteristically for this label, this actual release doesn’t contain that much noisy content pound for pound, and instead offers an unfathomable series of mysterious events, aimless instrumental passages, and nonsensical tape cut-ups that will keep you perched on the edge of your toolbox. You will probably start to feel queasy and sickened around the middle of track three, with consists of 12 minutes of orgasmic groaning voices, slowed down and mangled in various hideous ways, and overlaid in nasty loops like coiled serpents. It’s the sort of things that makes you ashamed to be a human being, which is probably the general idea. It’s followed by a bizarre passage of accordion music which is struggling to be heard against a barrage of abstract sound which may or may not include underground trains, crowds of happy shoppers, and angelic choirs rising. Then there’s the sinister lower-range piano work on track 5, a piece where gradual tape manipulation creeps in to slow down the sound and deepen it still further, all the while smuggling in foreign sibilants and unpleasant murmurings suggestive of an ugly troll luriking in the drawing room in the dark. Worrying stuff; and rest assured, there is plenty worse to come on this album of dissonant, dark and deeply disturbing compositions. The label informs us that these ten compositions were centred around field recordings, with the addition of cello, piano, accordion and voices. Apparently the process of creating and assembling it was largely a therapeutic act of self-healing by its maker, during “a period dominated by severe disturbances of loss, mental abysses and depair”. He pretty much put his own heart, body and mind under the microscope, breaking himself into piece and analysed what he found through the portal of music, deliberately confronting himself with “bile and degradation” at every turn. Ultimately, this was intended as a purgative process, but there can be no doubt that in the performance of these mental excavations, a large amount of psychic spew and filth has also ended up on the grooves of this record. Only those who feel capable of processing such morbidity and unhappiness should proceed with purchase of ?, and listen to it in the company of a friendly therapist.

(Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector, Issue 19, January 2011)

Etrange familiarité à l’écoute de cet album. Ou plutôt, deux familiarités, l’une existant entre tous les morceaux du disque, en apparence étrangers, et l’autre entre cet ensemble même et l’auditeur… Dave Phillips, musicien suisse, multiplie les expérimentations dans le domaine abstrait mais aussi dans celui du métal, depuis de nombreuses années en solo (voir par exemple son album sur Groundfault), en formation avec Fear Of God ou Schimpfluch Gruppe, ou en collaboration (avec John Wiese / Bastard Noise ou avec Francisco Meirino alias Phroq entre autres). L’album ? montre donc le geste sûr d’un musicien habitué à plonger et à nager aisément dans les profondeurs du son. Quoique de natures diverses, ses compositions sont toutes nourries de field recordings et / ou du jeu d’instruments classiques (violoncelle, accordéon, piano). Cette première trame, dans un sens et dans l’autre, dessine l’intimité que nous évoquions, claire ou obscure (c’est plutôt cette dernière exposition qui prédomine), chaque pièce partageant une densité d’ensemble, bâtie sur un lent mouvement de flux et de reflux. Les ponctuations de sons étranges, même dans les moments les plus vifs, ne bouleversent pas le niveau général, et le tangage, étouffé, s’élabore imperceptiblement. Au-delà encore de cette évolution en milieu constant, l’apparente diversité des pistes se confond dans la communauté de son effrayante humanité. Je parle avant tout d’enregistrements de voix qui servent, non de citations, mais de matières premières, vidées d’un sens langagier, et forçant le retour à une animalité, non une bestialité mais une primordialité de ce son. Le plus long et puissant exemple habite la troisième plage, très longue, où un gémissement de plaisir féminin cohabite avec un souffle rauque de créature monstrueuse qui sans doute lui répond. Ce n’est pas tout, la scène de luxure évoquée sans d’autre indice que tous ces sons vraisemblablement extraits de films pornographiques, et pour certains traités dans le ralentissement, sont « habillés » de loin en loin d’échos de conversation, décontextualisant un peu plus la connotation. Avançons encore, c’est une nuit qui sollicite l’imagination romantique, parcourue irrégulièrement d’un chant de bête, puis d’un train ou d’un tram dans le lointain, prise au premier plan par l’accordéon, sans autre forme d’évocation figurative. C’est bien là l’attrait de ce disque tout entier. Plus qu’abstrait mais moins que figuratif, Dave Phillips parvient à une forme d’expressionnisme sans dessin formel, une exacerbation de la fonction imaginative sans aucun objet à la clef, un usage de la voix sans jargon, la colonisation d’un espace intermédiaire encore rarement visité. Un grand disque de la zone grise.

(Dennis Boyer, Feardrop)

Дэйв Филлипс в свое время приложил много сил к созданию и существованию культовой грайндкоровой группы «Fear of God», испытывая нервы фанатов на прочность вплоть до развала коллектива. После этого события Дэйв вплотную смог заняться экспериментами с индустриальным звучанием, фиксируя на всех возможных носителях потоки атонального шума, записи окружающего мира, найденные сэмплы, партии «живых» инструментов, гитарный гул и многое другое. Все это сыпалось из него как из рога изобилия, отчего дискография Филипса быстро разрослась если не до неприличных размеров, то до вполне внушительных. Очередной кирпичик в дискографию артиста – альбом «?». Этим безмолвным вопросом задаются и слушатели, имеющие возможность прослушать десять этих агрессивно-безымянных треков и пытающиеся понять, что же здесь происходит. Понять это довольно сложно. Начинается альбом как винтажный ужастик из жизни вампиров – жирными каплями мазута падают и растекаются звуки клавиш, барабанит дождь по крыше и грохочет гром, скрипят половицы и доносятся потусторонние голоса. Потом, правда, ненадолго открывается потайная дверца в солнечный и безмятежный мирок с птичками и пчелками, миновав который, слушатель рискует потеряться в непроницаемом тумане монотонного шума (второй трек). Далее слушателю придется побыть вуайеристом, и не факт, что это ему понравится – на фоне развернутых вспять звуков, гулкого раскатистого эха колокольного звона, замедленного в разы смеха и человеческих голосов (кто эти люди? Соседи по коммуналке или незнакомцы, стоящие в очереди на доступ к телу?) несколько людей тихо, но страстно занимаются сексом. Как не странно, вместо сексуального возбуждения при прослушивании всего этого можно испытать приступ паники и страха, настолько сюрреалистично и странно все это звучит. Далее – на вечерней улочке играет аккордеон (аккордеонист при этом находится явно в измененном состоянии сознания), от трека к треку приобретая все более абсурдные и истеричные интонации. Коллаж одной из композиций воспроизводит звуки скотного двора, обитатели которого пережили войну и лишены присмотра человека. Гитарный гул уплотняется до вполне осязаемых вязких мелодий, заходя на территорию «Troum» с их трансцендентальными гармониями. Следующая вещь воспроизводит некое садомазо действо с обязательными стонами, звуками кнута, угрожающими приказами и криками наслаждения, за которыми плохо скрывается сильная боль, и все это на фоне массивного неповоротливого гула. Альбом от человека, творчество которого выдает в нем не банально-агрессивного шумовика-затейника, а знатока разного рода экстремальных ритуалов, мистических и сексуальных тайн. Не power electronic, не noise, не drone ambient, даже не электроакустика – но все вместе и сразу. Странные вибрации эфира, доносящие самые потаенные стороны человеческого бытия.

(Сергей Сергеевич, http://maeror3.livejournal.com/181016.html)

Late last year I was posting about some record or another and several loyal readers began speaking very highly of Dave Phillips. At that time I had never heard of him yet after those comments I started to see his name everywhere. Phillips was one of the co-founders of hardcore group, Fear of God, and after their break up has been producing solo work under his own name. If my house caught on fire and I could only save ten of my CD’s I reckon this would probably be one of them. Phillips has moved along way from any semblance of hardcore on ?. This is a record that is all about embracing field recordings and sound collage in a, quite frankly, terrifying way. Much seems to have been written about the third track which to me sounds like a light bondage session with Satan. Nurse with Wound would often insert prurient sounds into their tracks but I don’t think anything comes close to the sheer and utter filth that Phillips puts together on this one. Yet bum slapping, demonic grunting and female moaning aside, the manner in which he fuses multiple layered bird calls, static, a loud and persistent heart beat, a swarm of flies, street sounds, accordion, doom piano and other goodies will have your average filed recording nut in fits of pleasure. It’s like Daniel Menche, Nurse With Wound and Russell Haswell’s Wild Tracks all blended together to create something that is both challenging and accessible at the same time. ? is well worth your time.

(ducks battle satan)

Dave Phillips doesn’t give us a lot to go on here, but all of the clues point to this being the most fucked-up break-up record ever. Sure, there’s plenty of emo bands and sensitive singer-songwriters who pine over their broken hearts with oh-so earnest lyrics and anthemic crescendos; but if you were to break the heart of a twisted Swiss aktionist with a penchant for violent noise outbursts, industrial-doomscaping, and slaughterhouse ambience, you’d get an album far more wracked with the depths of abject loneliness. Like we said, we can’t be sure that this is a break-up record, but Phillips does state the album was recorded as a “therapeutic process during a period dominated by severe disturbances of loss, mental abysses and despair.” And he does dedicate this album to Thala, who may have been his girlfriend at one time, but certainly had appeared in several rather disturbing performances with Phillips. Those performances involved a mattress wired up with numerous contact microphones and the two engaging in rather violent sex, with the noises of the groaning mattress tossed back at the audience through explosive amplification. Of course, Phillips is a member of the Schimpfluch-Gruppe of Swiss aktionists, alongside Sudden Infant, Rudolf Eb.Er, Raionbashi, and G*Park. He was also the man responsible for that Dead Peni record released in 2008 on Blossoming Noise, and was the drummer for Fear Of God, which was like the Swiss equivalent to Napalm Death way back when. In all of those references, this album with all of its fragmented noises, nocturnal events, funereal dirges from an accordion, and fatalistic dronescaping falls more on the G*Park end of the spectrum, preferring mystery through abstraction rather than scatological expulsions of bloodcurdling skree. A few brief interludes of softened white noise dappled with various forest-dwelling field recordings opens the album, snapping to a halt with a 12 minute uncomfortable track that seems to recycle one of those sexually explicit performances. Phillips clips and cuts the moans of a woman rapt in sexual ecstasy, matching that with a male voice which has been pitch shifted way down to a demonic growl. Yes, this gets into the same problematic territory that you get with Brainbombs or Whitehouse, but given how Phillips treats the male protagonist in this exchange (and especially, if he is the man behind that voice), it’s very clear that there is to be no sympathy for him. The despair to which this album speaks is of his own making. At the conclusion of this track, Phillips turns to his accordion which sways between two dour notes and a series of nocturnal recordings. Clusters of notes hammered at the very low end of the pianos keyboard are struck and extended into Lustmordian passages of bleak ambience, and there are further examples of Phillips’ Aktionist pedigree with a scream session rhythmically locked to a series of meat-cleaving blows. There is nothing pretty about this album, and it is really quite a depressing opus when you get right down to it. Break-up record or not, it’s utterly powerful and absolutely not for the squeamish.

(Jim Haynes, Aquarius Records)