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CD Feature/ Phaenon: "Submerged"

img  Tobias

What do people see in space? What attracts them to a place no human being could survive in for more than three seconds without technological protection, to a vast void which attacks the body with freezing cold, radiation, particle bombardments and a magnitude which confounds the senses?

To Szymon Tankiewicz, the solitude and perfect isolation experienced in the galaxy, its infathomable wideness and expanse are the main psychological components of fascination. While the stamina of astronauts within Stanislaw Lem’s science fiction worlds was tested by submitting them to the dark embrace of space, Tankiewicz’ work is nothing short of a materialised yearning of sharing that experience.

“Submerged” can therefore be seen as his first excursion into the unknown, a metaphor further emphasised by the fact that the album was recorded in one go, representing a single, 66 minute long take. While Phaenon may thematically not be all that far off from other cosmic dark ambient acts, the musical and aesthetic differences are considerable.

Tankiewicz has for one resisted the temptation of filling the canvas solely with shades of grey and of emphasising the apects of nothingness and emptiness. Quite against the odds for a man with an obvious astronomical interest, there are no samples of NASA personel, nor any typical sound imitations of passing comets to be found here. Instead, he is much more interested in the psychological impact on the nerve circuitry, in simultaneous feelings of majesty and humility, of unrestrained weightlessness and a lack of orientation, of loosing the chains of parasitic external influences, while being exposed to an impenetrable cloud of infinite directions, polarities, rules and randomness.

“Submerged” seems to consist of layer upon layer upon layer of dark harmonies, all playing at once, placed underneath yet more plates of constantly shifting collossal reverberations, creating a sensation of being lost and unable to determine what is left or right, what lies beneath and what above. Tonal structures aren’t confused, they are without beginning or end, without a recognisable direction and without transitions.

This, however, is not to say, that the piece as a whole does not go through a discernable development. From the frightning opening, it is marked by gradual acclimation, by a slow textural strip. Unexpectedly, the music moves towards a resolution, to a place the body can accept and feel at home in – regardless of its alienation.

This, of courrse, allows for translating the issue at the core of the album to other fields and to human life in general. And isn’t that what intelligent (as opposed to merely action-oriented) science-fiction and Stanislaw Lem in particular, have always been telling us: That we can not perceive space as what it really is, but that it will always bring us into a confrontation with our most urgent fears and hopes.

While it is still hard to explain the attraction, which an uncompromising exorcism such as “Submerged” exudes, it is quite obvious what it sets out to explore: Ourselves.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Phaenon at MySpace
Homepage: Malignant Records

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