Music » Record Review




The Orm
(Iseler Communication Recordings)


In capitalism's intensely competitive environment, the notion that art's worth is predicated upon the measure by which it exceeds one's own abilities is practically pre-axiomatic. It's not enough for something to be beautiful. It must also be difficult to make. The meme is particularly pernicious in rock circles: DJs, rappers, noise artists and laptop musicians are routinely dismissed with the notion "Well, I could've done that."

Art as an expression of human potential is great, but what about art that has more to do with reverence for its medium than with how good someone is at something? What about the joy of watching someone create not because you can't, but because they did? What about the sanctity of the artifact, the sovereignty of sound, and its enduring impact upon human beings, whether articulated in a pre-verbal roar or in adroit 64th notes?

Phon's intermittently static, structurally amorphous sound art is a vaccine for the rockist virus. On The Orm, Raleigh's Drew Robertson and Dustin Dorsey weave effects-laden guitars, esoteric electronics and field recordings into a nebulously evocative tableaux. Shimmering amnions incubate embryonic textures. Rustling footfalls haunt corridors of incorporeal whirr and throttled static. Phosphenes trail across pastoral drones, accumulating ineffable significance, conjuring deeply subjective images that seem--uncannily--to respire.

The Orm is profoundly mimetic, representing the physical world without the mediation of metaphor or allusion. It's an open form that mingles felicitously with traffic sounds, birdsongs, Erik Satie's "knives and forks." One hears echoes of John Cage's aleatoric experiments, Brian Eno's ambient works, Growing's techno-naturalism, Godspeed You! Black Emperor's effaced classicism, Wolf Eyes on Paxil. In a musical climate increasingly concerned with persona and quantifiable achievement, Phon celebrates the inherent awesomeness of sound, committing the raw stuff of perceptual experience to tape in an act more similar to prayer than domination.

See also: Grayson Currin's article about Phon.


Listen to "Boneless Giants" from Phon's new album The Orm. If you cannot see the music player below, click here to download the free Flash Player.

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