To describe these 37 minutes of music spread over seven tracks, a compilation of unreleased material including a deconstructed cover of Brit band The Raincoats, Phew suggests “unconscious sound sketch”. Formerly a punk singer, member of the band Aunt Sally, the 60-year-old Japanese singer has been weaving her avant-rock network since her collaborations in the ’80s and ‘90s with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, Bill Laswell, and Jim O’Rourke. Needless to say, her artistic relationships all evolve between popular and experimental forms. Today, Phew pursues an essentially electronic practice, a variety of superimpositions involving all the digital tools and modular synthesizers within her reach. Different states are thus expressed, it can be silky, meditative, it can also be austere, corrosive, industrial, dark, partially luminous. The artist’s words, spoken or sung in Japanese, are always presented in the form of fragments or ornamental complements, never at the centre of the work as any form related to song suggests. The composer’s wordless voice can also enter the stage and merge into an mix of subtly processed sounds. The drone effect is often perceptible, as is the legacy of American minimalism. In some of the pieces on the programme, Phew triggers different rhythmic patterns and gives an unsuspected impetus to what at first glance appears to be ethereal and contemplative. There can be no doubt that we have the work of an essential avant-gardist on the global soundscape between our ears.
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