Dave Phillips - Ritual Protest Music

LP, 2018, Urbsounds, Bratislava.   Available




Le nivellement par le bas, voilà ce contre quoi Dave Phillips dit protester. Les do- maines touchés – « impactés », préféreraient « nos » dirigeants – sont divers : éducatif, biologique, géographique, philosophique, économique (il va sans dire). Des sommes d’inquiétude, en somme.
Que Dave Phillips illustre par les sons : ainsi une bête vomit-elle des consonnes ag- glomérées avant de prendre quelques coups de fouet qui la feront hurler ; sur un rythme lent, tout ça, aussi lent que sont lentes désor- mais à monter les réactions. Ne parlons plus d’homme alors, mais d’animal – c’est l’idée que Phillips poursuit depuis quelques an- nées.
Un larsen file alors sur le bruit d’un coléop- tère dont l’endurance éclaire : la bête en ques- tion a bien une chose à dire, et son langage est inquiétant : en seconde face, il finit néan- moins par trouver un rythme, son rythme : les derniers coups de cordes que lâche Dave Phillips confirment : le musicien à cordes a su composer avec le diable.

(Guillaume Belhomme, Le Son du Grisli, June 2018)

Dave Phillips (conosciuto anche perché ha suonato grindcore coi Fear Of God, dei quali quest’anno FOAD Records ha ristampato l’ep di 21 tracce del 1988) è svizzero ed è stato parte dello Schimpfluch-Gruppe, creato da Rudolf Eb.er con lui, Daniel Löwenbrück e Joke Lanz/Sudden Infant. Tutte queste persone, in un modo o nell’altro, sono catalogate alla voce “noise”, ma il loro approccio è parecchio libero e trasversale, “sperimentale” se vogliamo utilizzare il solito cliché.
Di Phillips ci siamo occupati – oltre che per le sue collaborazioni con il giro impro/noise napoletano – quando ha pubblicato Homo Animalis, nel quale parla del concetto di “humanimalism”, che torna in questo Ritual Protest Music. Senza farla troppo complicata o altisonante, Phillips, come tantissimi, non ama la gabbia in cui noi occidentali siamo costretti a stare: può essere quella del lavoro o di uno stato coi suoi confini come può essere quella del razionalismo a tutti i costi. Qualcuno può vedere l’aspetto rivoluzionario di un simile modo di pensare, come qualcuno magari intravede anche qualcosa di reazionario in tutto questo. Fatto sta che c’è un motivo se i suoi album privilegiano l’istinto e la fisicità. Nulla di cui stupirsi troppo per chi bazzica questi ambienti, anche se è divertente leggere un titolo come once humans turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free but that only permitted other humans with machines to enslave them e pensare a Dave che dà gli scappellotti agli accelerazionisti. Alla fin fine, che si tratti di grindcore o di noise più o meno sperimentale, molti ascoltano questi generi per il loro effetto liberatorio, per correre incontro a una fiammata che scrosta via tutto il disagio quotidiano depositatosi su corpo e mente. Di purificazione il signor Phillips è cintura nera quarto dan: ha coltivato le sue personalissime tecniche negli anni, che sono un collage di organico e inorganico, realizzato con respiri, affanni, versi animaleschi, rumori di insetti (penso sempre a The Sounds Of Insects del suo connazionale Norbert Möslang o a SEC_ e al suo Mefite, che a questi due svizzeri deve qualcosa), roba che si fracassa su altra roba, frammenti di strumentazione “tradizionale”, in un alternarsi di fasi calme ma tese ed esplosioni rabbiose. Anche in Ritual Protest Music riscontro la capacità di creare un’atmosfera e uno scenario minacciosi intorno a chi ascolta, prima di assaltarlo nei modi più imprevedibili, una sintesi di organizzato e disorganizzato che rende più semplice affrontare il disco. Bravo come sempre, non serve quasi più scriverne se non per fare passaparola.

(Fabrizio Garau, The New Noise, June 2018)

The ceaseless activities of Dave Phillips originate with a gleeful act of punk detonation. Light the fuse. Anticipate the explosion. Bathe in the thrill of its aftermath. Philips first shaped that raw energy through grindcore tactics as the bassist / vocalist in Fear Of God in the mid ‘80s and later harnessed a similar volatility of the noise aktionism through his ongoing role as a principle in the notorious Schimpfluch Gruppe. It’s one thing to ignite one thing after another. It’s another to plunge into an existential dialectic on the role of the self in a consumerist society, even if the self as a conscientious objector must navigate that landscape.
Such has been the frameworks to a rich vein for Phillips’ muscular constructions. Like last year’s scalding Rise album, Ritual Protest Music is an unrelenting album of telescoped details. He offers hyperreality as one vantage point from which to experience this work. In the barrage of chair crashes, body punches and door slamming as on the punishing “Morphic Field,” Phillips thrusts the listener into a wooden room that is splintering from the inside out. Even without the parallels of the amplified body being pummeled, Ritual Protest Music recalls Einstürzende Neubauten at their most claustrophobic, their most infernal. The organized chaos that Neubauten channels through aggressively controlled rhythm is replaced with a far more organic, almost textural approach to composition. Grunts of man turned beast, toxic insect chorales and Penderecki-like cello striation orbit a complex network of sickening loops, sonic tendrils and malignant rhizomes. Amidst all of this brute strength, Phillips buries spoken texts in German and English that vary in decipherability. Both the rational utterance and the guttural bellow have a place in articulating and purging Phillips’ rage. He sees the world as a closed system of violence, but there is agency that humanity can take even as the fleeting potential for enlightenment is under threat from technology, dominion and commerce. Hardly a pleasant album, but a bold and necessary one.

(Jim Haynes, The Wire, June 2018)

Since Philips gave me a slap on the wrist for writing about his stances on vegan life style and animal cruelty, which wasn’t untrue but should be seen in a broader humanist context, I have been trying think less about the context in which his music is presented, and more in musical terms. The latter I always found pretty good. Philips is easily one of the most interesting composers of noise music. But with a title like ‘Ritual Protest Music’, one needs to think what exactly is to be protested. I could copy a lengthy quote from the label’s website, but better is to read what Philips has to say, with the limitation of a quote by me. It is, okay, quote coming up, about his “work might touch on topics such as animal rights, human rights and environmental awareness and sensitization, but actually it’s the interconnectivity or hyperconnectivity (some call it chaos) between all these things that interests me”. The music Dave Philips produces lies on the heavy amplification of nature sounds, field recordings and the human voice, but also instruments as cello, violin, piano, bass and his “growing bank of “hitting” sounds culled from recordings of whips, punches, slaps, smacks, slamming doors & windows, hammered chairs and tables and objects flying about and breaking”. Especially the latter is around here quite a bit, and it is spread around the stereo spectrum, in all sorts of configurations, creating an element of constant surprise for the listener. All of these sounds are quite amplified as well and yet it never becomes a real noise record. Surely all of this should be played loud but it is the form of collage that makes this very interesting. It’s occasionally about distortion (and destruction) but just as easily Philips uses various loops of insect recordings as drones for a while and slams a few doors or hits a few tables. New seems to be the whispering voice to recite a text, something I haven’t heard before in his work. Also a there seems to be use of rhythm, more than I heard before, or so I seem to remember as I surely haven’t all of his work; especially in ‘Go Away’ there is a tribal rhythm to be noted. It is minor variations like this, which make the progress in the work of Dave Philips. Along the lines of what you already know something new is added and it immediately sounds like it has always been there. This is another powerful record and one that makes you think about some serious subjects of today’s world but also a record that simply sounds wonderful.

(Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, Issue 1130, April 2018)