Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Phantom Horse - Phantom Horse (Dekorder, 2012)

There's a slight playfulness unique to the debut LP from Hamburg duo Phantom Horse: as opposed to the formless, even amelodic hums emitting from the synth-centric circle of experimentalists Phantom Horse could be associated with, Ulf Schütte and Niklas Dommaschk perk up ears not with otherworldliness but peculiar familiarity. Though a refrain or timbre may seem reminiscent of something, it becomes so difficult to pinpoint where the recollection stems that it demands revisitation. Soon enough, the search for a possible source will taper off, and the charm will come into view.

John Elliott’s buzzing arpeggios on Emeralds' nostalgic Does It Look Like I'm Here? loop like the soundtrack to a Sega Genesis game, but the textures sequenced on Phantom Horse are childlike in their tactility, resembling the sound of Jenga blocks clicking together and the splashing of toys being dropped into a pool. Bitcrushed clang chisels away at the throb of “Twilight Sohn” in a panorama that brings its 8-bit clutter into the corporeal, as if pixelated barrels are tumbling out of the TV screen. Bouncing along plinks of synthesized thumb piano, “Rongo Rongo” develops a buoyant, hasty groove for red-light/green-light guitar-like lines to whistle over. Schütte and Dommaschk don’t elicit such youthful sensation through clear-cut referencing, but rather through pronunciation and delivery.

Aside from their acute sense of build and compositional accents, Phantom Horse are one of a very few to hearken back to the German realm of progressive electronics and actually ascribe catchiness to it. At the album’s most polyrhythmic, “Fernando” and “Rongo Rongo” are adhesive clusters of polyphony that, despite the duo citing Cabaret Voltaire, Cluster, and Harmonia as inspirations, hardly sound as if they stem from an electronic source, let alone the worlds of industrial and kosmische. When populated by sounds more alike those of Schütte and Dommaschk’s ancestors (“Kateshi”, “Porzellant”), they approach their loops with a different ear for layering. Rather than cycling through calculated evolution, the loops have much less traceable seams, with melodies intersecting others, intermingling, and soaring overhead.

[Phantom Horse Soundcloud]
[Stream/Buy Phantom Horse from Dekorder Records]

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