Why is a genre like Post-Rock destined to never ever die? Simply because the disenfranchisement of classical structures in order to come up with new, unconventional ways of performing music makes for unlimited possibilities for writing, structuring songs and incorporating new mirrors that have yet to be shaven but that are exhilaratingly infectious. The Vienna, Austria-based ensemble called Phal:Angst has just released another example of that difficult thesis: Whiteout is a perfect amalgam of Post-Rock ethos and fragility, Industrial harshness and Doomjazz passion!
“File between Industrial, EBM, Post-Rock and Doom and bands like Earth, Mogwai, Coil, Front 242 and Neurosis.” That’s what Discogs tells us about Phal:Angst, whose name is a portmanteau word, consisting of the German words “Phal” (probably here meant as a short form for “Phallus” - penis) and “Angst” (“fear”) and together these two syllables again are near-homophonic to “Phallanx” (a military formation used in antiquity) – an interesting way of naming your band, for sure. And similarly interesting is the description by Discogs. Because it remains quite hard to visualize a sound between these diverse cornerstones, but maybe we can clue it up a bit.
The two main roots for the band’s unconventional sound are surely IDM (industrial dance music) like aforementioned Front 242, but also like Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly or Nitzer Ebb; yes, Coil is also a good reference. This shows in the beats that are not trippy enough to come from Bristol but that are a tinge more mechanic and thus have more in common with these near-classic-industrial bands. Sometimes that results in sounds that are close to Modern Synthwave and, admittedly, a band like Phal:Angst makes Synthwave appealing as the sounds are produced by four highly talented individuals that all share a passion for the unusual combination that is their own range of sounds. The other pretty Synthwave or IDM-adjacent element are the sometimes vast, VAST!, meandering spaces – just listen to the fade-out at the end of ”What a time to be alive” that dissolves into a short wall of white noise.
However, to drop the bomb on this one: Two of the songs on this album are remixes, but it seems as if the original songs have never been published, and these remixes are done by no others than Jarboe (remember our interview?) and Brian Williams aka Lustmord! By the way, on their previous album, Phase IV, they had remixes by Justin Broadrick as JK Flesh and Will Brooks aka dälek – another interview partner of ours – and one must admit that these collaborators are really impressive! Nevertheless, this record would be as impressive without these remixes which nevertheless show the open-door-attitude of the band. “You want to collaborate? Well, come in, show us what you bring to the table.”
Some might argue about my beginning comp of Doomjazz – don’t believe me? Notice the nice xylophone at the beginning of the opening title track? How could it get any more Bohren than that? The way the beat is based on that simple, slow, gentle bass drum kicks and the soft use of the xylophone definitely points into the direction of Mount Fuji or Kilimanjaro. When the hushed vocals step onto that soft carpet, now being a bit more flustered by something that sounds like a trumpet, the audience seems to get two vocal lines, one a tiny bit louder and cleaner and one a tiny bit quieter and behind the first one; we feel safe. When both lines change position after roughly 5:40 minutes and the guitar takes other, we notice that we been lured in and that this warm bed might not be covered with roses but with beautiful carnivorous ones.
Oh, where is the Post-Rock bit? Listen to the brilliantly incorporated guitar lines of “Least Said, Soonest Mended” and it will become clearer that the usage of near-crescendo guitar parts are also one of the big tools that the Austrians use throughout their tracks. It seems as if they always use the signature elements of certain genres to keep each of them fresh and young.
Does somebody remember the Marvel TV show “Moon Knight” and its main character who wakes up in completely different environments and seems to jump time and place to get from one place to the next? This is a little similar to listening to Whiteout - the songs can take turns without blinking and even though these “jumps” can go from harsh to mellow and back in the blink of an eye, one has to admit: they never seem senseless or heterogeneous in sound. Every single time the band does that it always it for the song’s good and it a brilliant contribution to a record that is as much Coil or Neubauten as it is Perturbator as it is Swans as it is Dale Cooper’s quartet.
Looking for one of these unusual combinations which then again make total sense after letting go of our own expectations? Searching for a record that provides so many details that 30 or 40 spins will not reveal everything? Welcome, you just found your new addiction: Phal:Angst and Whiteout! Thanks for keeping Post-Rock and all the other roots so fresh and unclean!
And here is your chance to listen to the record (as it is not yet on Bandcamp as we speak)
Finally, you can watch the video for “Severance” here to get another idea of what Phal:Angst is all about: