Phantom Channel is a new internet label, established earlier this year. The first release is a compilation called, inspiredly, Phantom Channel Compilation Part 1. It gathers together nine instrumental, electronic acts of a broadly ambient-ish stripe, and presents them as an hour long continuous mix. It’s a testament to the rude health of the leftfield / underground music scene at the moment that the result is of startlingly high quality.
I say ambient-ish – by that I mean that this is largely beat-less music, not that it is quiet, easily-ignored background listening. Some of this is quite in-your-face with drone and distortion playing as prominent roles as spacey synth washes and lonely piano tones. Engine7 kick things off with a glitch and click piece that builds into a hypnotic, train-like rhythm overlaid with snatches of vocals, metallic noise, field recordings and sonorous drone. It’s an extremely impressive start. Parhelion’s contribution is more sombre, with gentle guitar figures enveloped in swathes of reverb. It starts like Future Sound of London, but morphs into something more like Mogwai by its conclusion. “Electric Storm” isn’t especially stormy when compared to the preceding track, more a build-and-decay drone piece. “Sedation” doesn’t sound like a sedative, either, with its geiger-counter crackle and saw-like metallic scraping anything but somnatic.
Weird Fields’ “QED” takes an age to get going, but gradually it morphs from seemingly random bleeping into something dark and muscular. I’m betting Lethosomn have some Resonant albums in their collection. The reverb-heavy “Engulfed in Red Clouds” has deep echoes of both Staffrænn Håkon and Port-Royal. Along with the Engine7 track, Brakhage’s “Early Morning Frost” is my favourite. A throbbing sub-bass pulse overlaid with electro-static crackle and what sounds like a shopping trolley with a wonky wheel. It’s menacing and dark as hell, even before the scary samples of a running and coughing figure kick in. It feels like the soundtrack to some disturbing event, but one which you can’t quite make out. “Brand New Polaroid” is a long, gently unfolding drone which leads into Svefn’s “Lightness”, a celestial two chord piece that ascends into clouds of distortion and feedback. It’s a fittingly cosmic conclusion to an extremely impressive collection.
Phantom Channel Compilation Part 1 is available to download for absolutely nothing from the label’s website. The tracks are all high quality 256Kbps MP3s which should satisfy all but the most nit-picky audiophile. I recommend it wholeheartedly. Come on, what have you got to lose? It’s free, dammit!
1 ENGINE7 – A Few Remaining Moments 6:18
2 PARHELION – Forgotten Outpost 7:04
3 EL HEATH – Electric Storm 3:40
4 ADAM TRAINER – Sedation 3:29
5 WEIRD FIELDS – QED 7:49
6 LETHOSOMN – Engulfed in Red Clouds 9:36
7 BRAKHAGE – Early Morning Frost 4:00
8 MOSCA – Brand New Polaroid 13:35
9 SVEFN – Lightness 3:14