Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Humanfobia - พี Phi EP
Album: พี Phi EP
Catalogue no: N/A
1. Ayankoko – Oren-You 1 [Krasue] (Humanfobia rework)
2. Mae Nak
3. Phi Am
4. Nang Tani
5. Phi Pop
6. Ayankoko – Blank [Phi Tai Hong] (Filmy Ghost Mix)
7. Ayankoko – Rs Peak [Kong Koi aka Gong Goi] (Filmy Ghost remix)
If you’ve read my review of the Unexplained Sounds Group labels’s Anthology of Contemporary Music from Middle East compilation, then you’ll know that I stressed the fact that music is an international language. As if to emphasise that here’s an album from a Chilean project, Humanfobia – a duo consisting of Sábila Orbe (sound programming, mixer) and Mist Spectra (vocals). Just to complicate matters, all the track titles are in (anglicised) Thai but even so, I am refraining from using an online translator in this instance – who knows who I might insult if I get the translation wrong…
Anyway, what do we have on here? First off, we get seven tracks (three of which are remixes of public domain pieces originally composed by French project Ayankoko), all of which elicit dark, dank atmospheres, and which were inspired by the myths and legends of ghosts from the Thai and Laotian cultures. If I was to put a tag on the music, I would say it lies somewhere on the spectrum between dark ambient and experimentalism, with some elements borrowed from industrial/death ambient aesthetics. Furthermore, this is music that has never seen the light of day, instead preferring to live a troglodytic existence deep underground amongst the sightless, translucent, and chittering things that call this place home. Ancient voices, emanating from chthonic entities thought long-vanished, sing paeans to isolation and eternal darkness. Like the oceans, this is a realm inimical to mortals, where only the gods from our unknown past choose to reside.
Track one, the first of the Ayankoko reworkings, ‘Oren-You 1 [Krasue]’, opens with a mechanical rhythm accompanied by a ringing metallic shimmer, along with a voice, echoing through a cavernous void that eventually metamorphoses into a quieter atmosphere, drawing a picture of a chasm full of strange insects and other creatures. The air here is sulphurous, a dark antediluvian world, replete with creatures older than time and rejected by creation. This is a lost world, buried deep in a lightless void, a place where the shadows appear alive and sentient. Going deeper still, we chance upon ‘Mae Nak’, a watery, damp ambient piece accompanied by a female voice singing a strange melody, a hallucinatory siren song luring the unwary into a trap. It’s nerve-wracking and spine-tingling, and the signs are all there warning of danger, but the lure is almost strong enough to overwhelm caution and the fight or flight instinct.
However, more by accident than intention the listener manages to escape to delve even deeper, where he’s greeted by the seismic rumbles of ‘Phi Am’ and a distorted voice that continually fades in and out, perhaps another enticing lure to reel us in yet deeper, pulling us further away from safety and light. This one shivers and shakes, playing with our senses of time and location, disorientating and distorting, and ultimately leading us astray. ‘Nang Tani’ follows on, a deeply watery voice emerging from shimmering depths, a lilting refrain sung in a tongue that hasn’t been heard since before primitive primates had even learned to walk upright on the surface miles above. One can only vainly surmise what sort of creature utters these syllables, and what they portend – is it a warning or a prophecy?
Now we’re venturing even further into the bowels of the earth, the zone where rock becomes plastic before giving way to molten lava. Hellish heat practically radiates from this, accompanied by growling, slowed-down voices and moans, delineating the twisted and anti-human realms that exist down here. The lava flows freely in rolling and roiling turmoil, a sea of boiling torment, and gouging out a vast chasm and hungrily devouring more rock to feed its own voracious fires.
Now come the second and third reworkings of Ayankoko’ – first ‘Blank [Phi Tai Hong] (Filmy Ghost Mix)’ which starts off with a sample from what I take to be a film, mixed with odd sounds and scrapes, a radio which is just about tuned in, treated voices, distortions, and electronic burblings. This is like an alien transmission, broadcast from some alternate dimension, where we hear something which is both familiar and unknown, eliciting feelings of both comfort and unease. The second Ayankoko reimagining, ‘Rs Peak [Kong Koi aka Gong Goi] (Filmy Ghost remix)’ is a more aggressive drone/noise outing, a gargantuan behemoth running amok and levelling everything with intent. This is probably the one that I would consider tagging as my favourite, as it collides with my particular tastes and aesthetics.
In some respects, given that this is inspired by elusive myths and legends, the music is itself somewhat elusive and slippery, refusing to be grasped and inspected, or even adequately analysed. Genre classifications don’t really amount to much here, as Humanfobia’s palette goes beyond just taking stock ideas and slotting them into new combinations. This is one of those releases where it’s hard to put a finger on its appeal: certainly its steadfastly subterranean feel is consistent, as does its refusal to rise above ground-level. Like I said, it’s slippery, a bit sketchy in places and hard to pin down, but it does spark off imagery and feelings, which is something in itself. The entities and situations aren’t fully formed, their outlines remaining insubstantial but more than ready to accept the shape and form the listener invokes. That could be seen as both a strength and a weakness, I suppose, but I would argue that as music is very personal to each individual and as music is so malleable, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it certainly worked for me.
I think I would call this a grower: it may not have an immediate impact, but with repeated listenings more and deeper nuances will become apparent. I liked it, it gave me the shivers occasionally and it set my imagination rolling, and in some respects I’d even go so far as to say there’s an unintentional Lovecraftian tone to it. Above all it conjures up a wonderful evocation of mystery and the occult, but seen from the viewpoint of a very different culture (two, if you count the project’s own country of origin).
Visit the band’s Bandcamp site for download details:
Psymon Marshall 2019.