I wonder if the group’s name was inspired from suddenly realising the curry they had eaten was too hot hmmm. Anyway joking aside Phal:Angst hail from Vienna and play a mix of industrial and post rock which is very much dystopian and fuelled by thoughts of the inevitable end of the world. I read the one sheet on this their fourth album having never heard of them before and was totally drawn to it due to mentions of them taking inspiration from the likes of Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Nurse With Wound, soundtrack artists and the likes of Neurosis, Earth And Mogwai. Although there are certainly nods of the hat to such artists, along the way of this album there were plenty more identifiers and this despite long running time was an album I found myself quickly immersed in and indeed getting to grips with; or at least I think I have.
The quartet going by the names Ph, Al, : and Angst (see what they did there) have structured 5 long and absorbing tracks here, stretching to an average 10 minute mark as well as a couple of mixes which I will get to later. ‘On The Run’ the first number was the one that particularly enthralled me. A gorgeous keyboard throb full of melody reminds of Kraftwerk and early Human League and glistens like a black hit of space. It is one of those tracks that tells a story via narration, a bit of a talking book indeed, reminding of a great piece of Americana literature. And well it should do too as it suddenly clicks in that I am listening to that great apocalypse work ‘The Road.’ It is not mentioned anywhere but I am guessing it is being read here by author Cormac McCarthy and whomever it is has a great voice to accompany the music which builds up into a neat, bleak guitar strum along with the electronic raptures. This is the sort of musical piece I could easily imagine a member of the aforementioned Neurosis constructing on a side project and atmospherically it is brilliant making me want to read the book and watch the film it is referencing (again)! There are some vocals from band members included occasionally over the album as well as other pieces of narration, here we get a definite post punk vibe from a singer suddenly warbling in. The length and repetitive nature of the music does not put off in the slightest and songs are cleverly built up and expand into magnificent post rock crescendos.
‘Money And Fame’ seems to have a vibe of despair about it; just what you can get from such things. Clean and soulful vocals project it over bleak and mournful melodic tones, it’s really quite beautiful in a dismal sort of way; slow burning in remorse until everything drops in and it builds up angrily. I can’t work out sampled narration this time around but again voice wise it really fits in with the musical storm clouds. Rasping whispered vocals remind a bit of Skinny Puppy as we move to Comeuppance’ and a mournful near country twang resounds from the guitar work. A xylophone type effect glitters and glistens and a lady now takes over the (sampled?) narration again intriguingly drawing you in. The guitar strumming rises and I am reminded a fair bit of New Order circa ‘Movement’ as this twists and turns away. It should be mentioned the production here is fantastic really giving exceptional clarity to each and every tone and nuance. I was amused to read the mastering was done by someone in Brooklyn who has worked with Busta Rhymes in the past too! Bleakness via narration continues with ‘Despair II’ along with those ohGr like vocals beseeching the listener into the grey but enlighteningly beatific musical canvas. A good build up things gradually get muscular and despair is not without anger in soaring effects and what sounds like it could be the plane on the albums cover art spiralling into crash dive. ‘They Won’t Have To Burn The Books When No one Reads Them Anymore’ is a great title immediately making one think of Fahrenheit 451 but I struggle to place the utilised narration, focussing on the slow evolving industrialised musical tempo.
The last 2 tracks ‘Despair II’ and ‘The Books’ probably wisely get their time cut in half for the remixes that see the heavyweight likes of Will Brooks Dälek and Justin Broadrick providing a JK Flesh remix of them and stamping their own indelible marks over the material.
For me ‘On The Run’ is a piece of genius and the rest of the album is very good indeed. ‘Phase IV’ arrived with a long lead time before release date and should have been offered out for review but after just one play I knew that wasn’t going to happen and it was one I had to have for myself’ damn glad I nabbed it too.
(8/10 Pete Woods)