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Philip Sulidae: "Unknow"; "The Black Solver"

img  Tobias

Most artists mainly develop through amassing practical wisdom. After years of probing and experimenting, the experienced musician will know what he wants and know what works. At each given moment, he will have a wide selection of choices at his disposal and come to well-founded conclusions. He will have gathered a mental archive of ideas and inspirations which he can always revert and return to for guidance. He no longer questions the creative process as such and has mainly turned to finetuning his tools and extending his palette instead. In comparison, Philip Sulidae's maturation as an artist has resembled the work of a surgeon over the past few years. With unerring precision, he has chipped off morsels of unwanted meat from his body of work to arrive at a sceletised style which truly feels relevant to him. And against all medical insight, this act of self-mutilation has set free new musical energies and opened up a plethora of enticing possibilities.

Three key tendencies can be observed in his script. Firstly, there's the contrast between sound-oriented material and more traditional „musical“ passages – or, as one might also put it, between pitched and un-pitched sources. Rather than battling over supremacy, they are inseparably entangled in a symbiotic relationship and inherently rely upon each other. Sulidae also appears fascinated by the correlations between natural field recordings, which he preferably collects in his immediate environment, and highly processed digital clicks and plops. Like an obsessed director of environmental documentaries, he zooms in until new and mysterious layers and structures are beginning to reveal themselves. Finally, his work is marked by an uneasy and oscillating equilibrium between the forces of day and the powers of night,  pitchblack Sound Art for the microtonal generation in one instant and hopeful hymns for the morbidly romantic in the next.

As mentioned, Sulidae's recent splurge of creative juice has resulted in his most productive phase since his „Hasnamuss“-debut in 2006. Admittedly, releasing three 3inch-Mini-CDs in one year can hardly be called „prolific“ when compared to the mindboggling output of some of his colleagues. However, it does point to a complete confidence in his techniques. In this regard, the short format has proven its value for realising his vision in a uncannily concise way. Each release, in effect, can be considered a minutely detailed image of a particular concept, philosophical train of thought or a set of sonic principles – Sulidae's background as a visual artist is coming to the fore here, as he delineates every EP through colour, contour and its degree of concretion. As he puts it himself: „I'm more interested  and drawn to music as an object that can be moved about and taken with people.“ This aspect is further underlined by the haptically appealing packaging: While „Unknow“ comes in a flocked paper sleeve, which feels like touching the walls of a Baroque castle, the ink on the cover of „The Black Solver“ shines and glistens as though it had been applied with a bird's feather only a few minutes ago.

With its sensually simmering and subtly shimmering chord sequences, the latter release opens with two nocturnal soundscapes somewhere between dream and delirium. As harmonies contract and expand in cycles of tension and relaxation, Sulidae counterpoints their elegiac yearning with a dense fog of cool crackle. By juxtaposing acoustic events both very near and extremely far away and applying different degrees of reverb, the result is an unreal conglomerate that feels both perfectly tranquil and unsettlingly nervous – this is high-tension music at the border of perception. Closer „Baralku“, on the other hand, has a distinct touch of early Krautrock to it: Thick, majestically resonant Organ-clusters are hovering mid-air in monolithic splendour, swelling and ebbing away in brutish elegance. Towards the end, gnawing and chewing noises evoke a fairytale-like sequence, before leading into a prolonged coda and, ulitmately, silence.

At slightly under twenty minutes' length, „The Black Solver“ still appears almost epic compared to the mere quarter of an hour of „Unknow“. And yet, it is probably this release which sums up Sulidae's concepts about composition best. The idea of fore- and background seaguing into each other is explored even more radically here and rather than using hypnotic repetition as a driving force, he places his motives for no longer than a few second and then carefully observes their echoes as they gently ripple through subsequent waves of sound and noise. On „3300ff.3399cc.003399“, a quietly anthemic theme rises from a busy street scene only to quickly disappear again. Its reverberations, though, can be felt until the end of the piece, influencing the course of the music until the last note has died down. It is a recurring motive in the other tracks as well: Cause and effect are of central importance here, their typical relations appearing confused and contorted: Seemingly small events can turn out to have seminal influence, while outwardly essential indications simply disappear.

Of course, minimalism is part of the package here, with not a single note sounding out of place or redundant. Then again, with their haunting and ghostly mood, their unfathomable deepness and petrifying pull, both works could be mistaken for Dark Ambient. Sulidae is right, however, to distance himself from all too obvious genre-associations. After all, he doesn't just see beauty in darkness – he truly sees light beyond the tunnel.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Philip Sulidae

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