Somnambule - Writing About Music

Phonophani ~ Oak Or Rock

Phonophani is Norwegian Espen Sommer Eide and Oak Or Rock and is the successor to 2001’s Genetic Engineering, also released on Rune Grammofon. Oak Or Rock is seated firmly in a post-Oval, post-Nintendo world, a world perhaps looking for something more than the hollow self-sufficiency of systems. Instead, Phonophani’s music successfully extends electronica’s reach to meld with the multiplicity and playfulness of nature. It searches for the soul in the arcane squeals, rents and twitterings of electronica. The mystery to the layperson of how this music is produced only contributes further to its fascination - it might be the product of some exotic fauna tremulous at the prospect of being watered or the sped up sound of stop-motion film as it captures the melting of winter snows.

Earth Diver is a burbling, tinkling, wheezing, whirring stream of sound that thins briefly towards the end of its five minute duration to reveal some of the vibrating strands of which it’s comprised. The Boiling Fjords Orchestra could be the result of a massed cohort of Hardanger fiddles wavering forth into the fresh air. Cloudberry features the Norwegian singer Maja Ratkje who manages to sound both like a contented cat and a cut and pasted woodsprite experiencing a moment of unexpected catharsis.

The strong sense of the organic in the fizzing of the music’s electronics could be attributed to the suggestiveness of the album’s title or to the sound of the music itself. Whatever the source, it achieves that strange circularity similar to the point where mathematics in its purest form approaches spirituality or, more prosaically, where something very hot can feel momentarily very cold. Within the frenetic warbling, the telephone exchange clicks and the static-ridden wooshes of Oak Or Rock, the echo of a deliberately elusive, natural mysticism can be heard, as though dandelion wisps had miraculously become lodged in the dense latticework of sonic data streams.
Colin Buttimer
February 2005
Published by the BBC