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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Phonothek - "Lost In Fog"

Artist: Phonothek
Album: Lost In Fog
Year: 2016
Label: Cryo Chamber
Genre: Dark Ambient, Avant-garde
Website:  cryochamber.bandcamp.com

Cryo Chamber brings us another debut release of an unknown project, this time from Georgian project Phonothek. I don't know anything about this project, but immediately can tell that it's something a bit different for the label. Also, that cover art is amazing.

It's nice to hear Cryo Chamber bring on another project that writes interesting/active ambient. I find it hard to classify Phonothek as their songs contain innumerable varied elements, but to attempt to put it concisely: it's dark ambient with an avant garde slant to it. I saw a post describing this as "ambient / jazz" and I guess that's somewhat fitting - sort of foggy, disembodied jazz-esque bits dot the otherwise snowy, tranquil landscape of this album. Overall, the songs tend to contain beautiful sleepy, droning textures, but they are also chock full of numerous other sounds from piano, to ghostly voices, to sfx, to glitchy textures, to bells, to distant horn-esque sounds, and so on. There is never a dull moment in any of these tracks. For the most part the songs are really good (e.g. "Last Train", "She was in a Dream") - hypnotic ambient textures mixed with a constant barrage of new sounds overlaid, plunging the listener into a weird, but captivating, surrealist dream sequence. Occasionally the songs become a little too jarring or meandering with too many opposing elements (e.g. middle of "Something Happened") or descend too far into art wank (the end section where it sounds like they're playing ping pong in "Heavy Thoughts") but after a bit they usually smooth out and go back to something I enjoy listening to. Although the layers of sounds used here are quite diverse, Phonothek manages to splice them together in such a way that most of the time they mesh together well and feel like a bizarre but cohesive idea. Not sure what I could really compare this to; the best I can do is that if you took one of those Jazz-y IDM acts like Ametsub or Zinovia and removed the beats and put their sounds into an ambient framework than you'd get something vaguely like this.

I like their non-traditional approach to the genre, and I feel that it helps them stand out among contemporary dark ambient producers. Their music is definitely different and interesting, although at times it's a little too disjointed for me. Overall though, with continued listens I find myself liking it more and more. It's a complex gem and it's takes a bit of time to acclimate to, but the payoff is worth it. Lost In Fog is quite a diverse record and is worth checking out for fans of ambient music who want to be challenged and/or are looking for something more on the artsy side of the spectrum.

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