Phonophani: Oak or Rock
Rune Grammofon

While Phonophani's third album Oak or Rock is a more than credible enough release, it's well nigh impossible to hear it without being reminded of Oval; the electronic whirrs and gentle whispers in “A Lion Lies Listening,” for example, certainly suggest that Espen Sommer Eide (Phonophani and Alog member) has absorbed So, Markus Popp's collaboration with singer Eriko Toyeda. Yet there are similarities and differences between the artists. Popp drapes large swathes of static over his tracks, whereas Eide emphasizes tones that garble and babble, resemble carousels and calliopes, and even softly glisten, like rain drops striking a pond's surface. Like Popp, Eide's compositions are built from fragments that tangentially suggest melodies rather than spell them out directly and demand that the listener connect the aural dots until they coalesce into clearer structures. Although he reduces cello, guitars, vibes, and voice samples to elementary particles and then manipulates them with personalized software, traces of originating instruments (like the vibes and guitars on “Earth Diver”) can be heard. Guest contributors include Maja Ratkje, whose entranced cries in “Cloudberry” suggest a medium channeling disturbed spirits, and Nicholas Møllerhaug, who adds cello scrapings to morphing voice smears in “You Must Welcome The Stranger.” Even more fascinating is how Eide alchemizes steely electronic sounds into states of melancholy and mournfulness as he does in “Blind Birds of the Antarctic” and “Take Off Your Wooden Coat.” Although more electronic in sound than the typical Rune Grammofon release, Oak or Rock offers another distinctive chapter in the label's ongoing story.

October 2004