The modular synth duo Phantomnation is a noisy side project of Gene Priest(Skeleton Beach) and Derek Jones(Circadian Rhythm Section.) Neither guy is a stranger to the world of modular synthesizers, so for them to set sail for the heart of the sun manning some serious electronic noise makers is an exciting proposition. Ambient Modular Explorations//Volume One is the first in a series of these improvisational “jam” sessions between Priest and Jones, and the first Phantomnation release on the duo’s own record label, Grief Thief Records. A sort of digital clubhouse where these two can get together and create imagined soundtracks for films that never were, as well as feed their artistic and creative appetites, Grief Thief Records has proven to be fertile ground where musical seeds have been sewn. Ambient Modular Explorations//Volume One is as fertile as it gets.
What’s a modular synth? Well, imagine those walls of glowing lights and patch cords you’d see in old clips of Tangerine Dream shows, or the music of Wendy Carlos in A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. Modular synths are the rawest form of electronic music creativity. Never predictable, the modular synth has the distinction of feeling both space age and ancient. When in the right hands, they can be transformative and transportive. It’s an instrument that combines both the arts and the sciences.
According to Phantomnation’s Bandcamp page, “The purpose of these explorations are simply a meditation in sound.” Consider this mission accomplished. With three tracks at over 50 minutes, this album ebbs and flows from ambient trances to absolute aural chaos. Songs start with simple sound patches then take on a life of their own, twisting and turning and morphing into pockets of noise. The music, given deep meditative inspection, is the musical equivalent of a Pollack painting. Splotches of sound spilt on a canvas of air, layered upon each other until it transforms into something completely different.
All three tracks pulsate and glow, like lava flowing underground. There is a calming feeling here overall, but it’s never a simple vibe. The waves of tone lull you into a state of peace, but it’s as if any minute everything could fall apart. The circuits could spark and we’d all go down with ship. Fortunately, that never happens.
Ring in the New Year with some heady sonic vibes. Ambient Modular Explorations//Volume One has you covered.