Nos Phillipé: Nos Phillipé
Black Atlas

On this self-titled sophomore effort from Nos Phillipé, East London duo Jonathan Webb and Robert Hopps conjure three extremely visceral settings using turntable, electric and acoustic guitars, synthesizer, field recordings, loops, contact mics, and found objects for arsenal. The disc as a whole is an uncompromising, full-bore plunge into harrowing electroacoustic improvisations, and is not, shall we say, a calming listen.

Working up incredible heat in record time in the opening “Deacons: Control of the Candidate,” the pair dabbles in black arts with a doom-laden invocation of the spirits. The piece could pass for a general encapsulation of the group's approach, with faint fragments of melody intoning from within a deep silo of crackle and hum amidst thick, viscous sounds suggestive of a stylus gouging a vinyl surface. Grinding rhythms and industrial thrum recur throughout until, near the end, violins violently swoop and stab, their razor-sharp attack suggesting a deranged flock of birds. The slightly less intense middle piece, “Deana,” has its own nightmarish agenda in mind, as it gradually grows into a severely mutated fusion of gamelan and dronescape, the material boring into your skull like a trepanning operation. The Café Oto may never be the same after the Nos Phillipé set documented in the twenty-four-minute “Live at Café Oto.” If at first it seems no more brutalizing than the first two pieces, be patient: the group calls into being a metallic doomscape of such derangement it suggests a mass slaughter session. One might think that the muffled siren wailing repeatedly behind the front-line noise session would be the coup de grace, but the piece advances into even more caustic territory thereafter, with electric guitars wailing over convulsive storms of scabby ripples. One can only begin to imagine the expressions of total stupefaction on the clubgoers' faces as Nos Phillipé create their material. There was no stinting on the packaging, by the way, as the CD comes in a large format case adorned by a striking painting by Julie Heffernan that in some inexplicable way complements the group's sound-making.

March 2010