AMN Reviews: Phaneronaut – Anabasis (2022; Bandcamp)

Every so often a new album just hits you the right way and you are not sure why. Enter Phaneronaut, a one-man band from Germany. Anabasis is not his first recording but from sampling his previous works – which are mainly weird electronica – it is his most diverse. Split into five cantos, each with a signature sound, Phaneronaut covers a lot of ground.

As stated in the liner notes:

All sounds on the album are either, in contrast to other Phaneronaut releases, from digital synthesizers or from sampled “real” instruments that have different kinds of metal as their primary source of sound production (with some exceptions for drums/percussion and voices).

To that point, the album begins with Canto One, featuring tuned percussion and a majestic horn theme that evokes a big-band feel. The piece is surprisingly dense with multitracked lines joined by bass and more traditional drumming. It quickly gives way, however, to Canto Two, which takes a more experimental tack. Echoing percussion is joined by church bells, cosmic electronics, sequenced synth patterns, and effects. This instrumentation gives way to heavy walls of fuzzed guitar, banjo, Jew’s harp, and a horn melody. Abstract synth is included as the track employs beat patterns that appear regular at first, but are pushed to the edge by metallic percussion and disjointed guitar bass, and horns.

Canto Three holds a special place, as it is an unabashed take on Magma – in particular De Futura from Udu Wudu. This includes repetitive, trance-like keyboards, snare-heavy drumming, electric guitar lines, and chanting vocals. If anything, this offering is a bit less raw than the late 70s classic, is slower-paced, and lacks the exquisitely angular bass lines. Nonetheless, Canto Three elicits a similar feel and comes close to matching Magma’s power.

Canto Four is centered around impressionistic percussion, with wordless female vocals, lilting strings, and a sound that fluctuates between trance, techno, psychedelia, and retro-rock without falling into any of those categories. Canto Five caps things off with martial percussion and its tuned counterpart, along with a repeating keyboard pattern reminiscent of those of Klaus Schulze. Drums and horns add to the mix in a sort of coda harkening back to the opening track. Nonetheless, the album ends on a melancholy piano theme.