cene: Espen Sommer Eide is sitting down with Geir Jenssen. Eide plays Jenssen a track he’s been working on. Jenssens tells Eide that if he can make nine more tracks like it, he’ll start a record label with the express purpose of putting it out. This is how it’s supposed to work, right? That’s the way it did happen in 1998, when Jenssen set up the Biophon label and released 500 copies of Phonophani. To date the label has released only one other record. Which can mean a lot of things. Let’s take the positive route and say that Phonophani and Tom Opdahl’s Black Smoker are stunning albums. I can’t speak for the latter, but the former certainly is. Luckily, Rune Grammofon agrees and has recently reissued it.
The LP’s opener, “I.F.A.,” starts like a lost Ghostface track, line noise giving way immediately to ghostly horns. The rhythm is hardly hip-hop, though. Instead we get the decaying horns arranging themselves into waves of repetitive throbs, awaiting the next crest. The beat is easier to find on “No Strangeclock,” which is the track for nearly a minute before giving way to allow for choral synths and billowing pans of effects. It’s one of the few tracks here that gives you an immediate hook to hold on to, but it’s all the better for it.
Later on, “Order of Disappearance” sounds more like the post-rock investigations of Howard Hello. It’s a jumble of synthesizers, with melodies straining to unearth themselves from the murk (and eventually succeeding). Once again the rhythm can only be described as wobbly or ghostly. Closer “Minne & Materie” is a particular highlight. After a nearly two-minute opening movement, a simple guitar, tape hiss, and drum trio emerge. Soon it’s augmented by other droning instruments, each hinting and feinting at a profundity that might be below the surface.
Three bonus tracks are attached to the backend of Phonophani, each a duet from the time period with Eide’s partner in what would later become Alog, Dag-Are Haugan. There’s little of the group’s vaunted playfulness (titles notwithstanding): “The Boy in His Bathtub” creates a drowning scenario, in which nearly all the light and melody are expunged by the halfway point, while “Kreta” is more pointillistic—its drones are shot through by tentative swathes of static before giving way to simple plucking and tons of reverb.