Friday, 16 August 2019

Phantoms vs. Fire - My Mind as your Amusement Park

Artist: Phantoms vs. Fire
Catalogue no: BIR053

     1.      D des i gn er Offf Nightm ma res s
     2.      In Love with a Glitch
     3.      Arrival
     4.      As the Ashes Touch my Skin
     5.      Burning Burning
     6.      Broken Innocence
     7.      My Mind as your Amusement Park
     8.      Pink Balloon Dog Animal Skull Hacker
     9.      Otherworld Cacophony
    10.  Believe in the Fire (The Chanting)

Regular attendees of my reviews might have cottoned on to the fact that occasionally I like to visit the fringes of even the outermost margins of the underground, and to fire off despatches from places a long way from familiar paths. Thiago Desant’s Phantoms vs. Fire project is one such, and it’s apparent that things are done differently here: rather than exploring the wonders of the macrocosm, even if just in the imagination, this feels more like a gazetteer of the inner worlds, a Lonely Planets guide if you like, a handbook describing the rare, scintillating gems of the microcosmic realms which hide in the regions less travelled. It is everything an inner Livingstone would want: a multi-textural, variegated, passionate, psychedelic, and mind-enhancing vision-quest, a journey through rarified atmospheres and exotic essences that are simultaneously ephemeral and bright, diffuse and solid, spiritual and material.

This is deeply ambient, experimental, abstract, at times disjointed, elusive, indefinable, uncategorisable, minimalist and yet densely layered. It’s a dive into a mind where invention is forever unfolding and flowering, where colours with no names burst and bubble, texturally complex, musically staggering, and as full of imagination and creativity and as broad as the span of the universe itself. In some respects these are presented to us as brief sketches, flying visits to the wellsprings of creation and generation, merely mapping out the generalities and only existing to outline the shapes and forms. It’s a shout-out to divergence and diversity, to bifurcation and speciation, to adaptation and specialisation. This is the heartbeat of the universe, its raison d’être, its meaning and purpose.

The inventive breadth showcased here precludes me from inventorying each individual piece, so a few tracks will suffice to delineate the tenor of this release. Track one, the troublesomely-titled ‘D des i gn er Offf Nightm ma res s’ (yes, that’s what’s written here) is a gentle and endless exhalation, a breath seen on a cold morning, before a pulsing escalation warms it up and sends it shivering upwards into the diffuse and rare atmospheric heights. ‘In Love with a Glitch’ is a mournful, clangorous lament, perhaps the wail of a bird singing its last song to the glittering stars before gliding back to Earth, never to fly again. ‘As the Ashes Touch my Skin’ is a forsaken landscape, blighted by gloom and dark obscuring winds; even here though, something survives, fluting out its defiance to all those who would hear, a shimmering light of hope in an otherwise sullied world. The title track, ‘My Mind as your Amusement Park’, is a beautifully lilting and reverberating refrain, a mysterious masked carnival of wonders and oddities, dancing, pirouetting, tumbling, and somersaulting. ‘Believe in the Fire (The Chanting)’ is a raucous dance/ritual celebrated under a starlit sky in the protective shade of rainforest trees, the orange glow of a flickering fire picking out faces, bodies, and action, the celebrants abandoning themselves to their own rhythms.

Sketches though these may ultimately be, there’s sufficient energy, movement, colour, texture, and detail to grace us with the full picture. This is almost like ‘planet-hopping’, sampling and savouring each stop briefly before jetting off again before the experience gets too thin and tired. I would also point out an enervating freshness here, that nothing outstays its welcome – it’s akin to the work of a great writer: deft use of materials to provide description and flavour without unnecessary flourishes and overextensions, and brevity. In some ways it reminds me of some the old Editions EG releases from way back: snippets of events, places, and feelings rather than full expurgatory essays. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, varied, fresh, wild, colourful, and full of flow and dynamism, then I suggest you give this a try.

Available in a multitude of versions and variations from here:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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