PHALL FATALE-MOONLIT BANG BANG.
PHALL FATALE-MOONLIT BANG BANG.
Three years after releasing their debut album Charcoal From Fire, Phall Fatale return with their eagerly awaited, and extraordinary eclectic sophomore album Moonlit Bang Bang. It will be released on Slowfoot Records on 15th January 2016. Moonlit Bang Bang marks the return of this truly cosmopolitan band. Their story began in the spring of 2008.
That’s when Phall Fatale were first formed. Its five members are from Britain and Switzerland. Bassist John Edwards is from London. Drummer Fredy Studer, double bassist Daniel Sailer and vocalists Joy Frempong and Joana Aderi are all Swiss. They’ve worked with some of the biggest names in music. However, back in the spring of 2008, they were ready to form their own band.
For many musicians, making the decision to form a band is the easy enough. The hardest part, can be coming up with a name. That can prove tricky.
Just like many bands before them, the members of Phall Fatale wanted a name that would stand out from the crowd. So they decided to embark on some blue sky thinking. Thinking outside the box worked, and Phall Fatale was born. The band took its name from the famously fiery curry, the Phall, and Fatale as in femme fatale. Now sporting what was a memorable moniker, Phall Fatale started to make music.
This wasn’t going to be staid and traditional music. Instead, it would be music that was new, exciting, energetic, innovative. and unpredictable. Infused with enthusiasm, and the spirit of ’76, this group of musical mavericks set about rewriting the musical rulebook.
Before that, they tore up the original rulebook. All bets were off. Now this extraordinary group of musicians set about doing things their way. This meant combining not just a disparate and eclectic selection of musical genres, but the music that had influenced them.
For the five members of Phall Fatale, this meant everything from ambient, avant pop and free jazz to avant garde, experimental and post punk. That’s not forgetting what Phall Fatale describe as leftfield vocal jazz and alt-R&B. All these genres became part and parcel of Phall Fatale’s unique sound. So did the influence of Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix, Iannis Xenakis and Albert Ayler. These artists had influenced the members of Phall Fatale, who in the Spring of 2008, embarked upon their nascent career.
It took just over a year for Phall Fatale to hone and sculpt their own sound. By September 2009, Phall Fatale were ready to record their debut album. So the five members of Phall Fatale made their way to the Saraswati Studios. They’re situated in the Izery mountains of southwestern Poland. Such beautiful surroundings were almost guaranteed to inspire Phall Fatale as they began work on what became, their debut album Charcoal From Fire.
Once Phall Fatale had finished recording Charcoal From Fire, the album was mixed during the summer of 2010 at Kirschlab Studio, in Zurich, Switzerland. However, it wasn’t until 2012, that Charcoal From Fire would be released.
When Charcoal From Fire was released in 2012, Phall Fatale’s debut album was a mixture of ten new songs and some familiar tracks. This included Bob Dylan’s Desolation and Nina Simon’s Four Women. Both songs were given makeovers, and transformed into something neither artist ever envisaged. Music was added to William Blake’s The Angel, bringing new meaning to the seminal poem. It’s no wonder that critical acclaim accompanied the release of Charcoal From Fire. The Anglo-Swiss musical mavericks had created a genre-melting, and sometimes, genre-defying album. Phall Fatale took a hint of one musical genre, and then added a twist of another. Sometimes, several musical genres were added together. They were like a Michelin star chef, carefully adding ingredients and gradually creating a musical dish that was hailed as ambitious, adventurous, imaginative and inventive. Here was a group that were going to shake up music. The followup to Charcoal From Fire was eagerly awaited.
After a year became two, people wondered what had happened to Phall Fatale? When was their long-awaited sophomore album going to be released? However, what record buyers didn’t realise, was that the members of Phall Fatale are involved in other musical projects.
London based John Edwards is well known, and highly respected figure within avant garde music. He’s worked with Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann and Wadada Leo Smith. When not working with the great and good of avant garde, John finds time to perform the songs of Robert Wyatt in Comicoperando. John’s not the only one to have a busy schedule.
The other members of the rhythm section are equally hard working. Drummer Fredy Studer has played alongside some of the biggest names in music; including Joe Henderson, Miroslav Vitous, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, John Abercrombie, John Zorn and Fred Frith. Previously, bassist Daniel Sailer has showcased his versatility, playing both classical music and hardcore noise with O’Haldenramm, Krakatau, Pol, Frachter. This is very different to the music made by Phall Fatale’s vocalists.
Joana Aderi makes experimental electronica under the alias of Eiko. Joy Frempong is one half of OY, who are signed to Belgian label Crammed Discs. Each of the five members of Phall Fatale are making very different types of music when away from the band. These disparate and eclectic types of music can be heard on Phall Fatale’s eagerly awaited sophomore album Moonlit Bang Bang.
Just like their debut album Charcoal From Fire, Moonlit Bang Bang, is a mixture of new songs and a cover versions. The cover versions include Jimi Hendrix’s Manic Depressionm and Edward Vareses’s Un Grand Sommeil Noir, complete with words by symbolist poet Paul Verlaine. However, the rest of the songs on Moonlit Bang Bang is the work of Phall Fatale.
Vocalist Joana Aderi has penned five songs, including The Girl, The Beat, Fish Tank, Crocodile, Tree House and Sleeping Beauty. Joana Aderi also cowrote Sugar Drops with John Edwards; and Ring The Bell with Joy Frempong. She in turn, cowrote Funny Money with John Edwards; and cowrote the music to Electric Eel, which features the words of poet Slade Hopkinson. Joy Frempong also added the music to Anne Bronte’s Night. It seems that when Phall Fatale began recording Moonlit Bang Bang, they were on course to become the most literate group in music.
Recording of Moonlit Bang Bang took two sessions to record. The first came at Machinastudios in Switzerland, between the 5th and 8th July 2014. Things were put on hold until August 28th 2014. That’s when Phall Fatale made their way to RePublica Studios, Lubrza, in Poland. By the 3rd September 2014, Moonlit Bang Bang was complete. All that was left was for Moonlit Bang Bang to be released between November 24th and December 9th 2014. Then Moonlit Bang Bang was ready for release.
History repeated itself, when there was a time lag between the recording and release of Phall Fatale’s sophomore album, Moonlit Bang Bang. However, at last, and four years after the release of Charcoal From Fire, Phall Fatale return with their eagerly awaited sophomore album Moonlit Bang Bang.
Opening Moonlit Bang Bang is The Girl, The Beat, which has been chosen as the lead single. That’s no surprise. The arrangement glides into being, reminiscent of Grace Jones. By then, a disparate fusion of genres can be heard. This includes bub and electronica. Meanwhile, the rhythm section lay down a backdrop that more than hints at jazz, funk and reggae. Sitting proudly atop the arrangement is a heartfelt, soulful and sultry vocal. Just like the rest of the song, oozes quality.
Sugar Drops finds Phall Fatale bowling a curveball. Shimmering synths give way to a masterclass on double bass by Daniel Sailer. His fingers flit up and down the fretboard. Not once does Daniel miss a beat. Somehow, the post punk inspired vocal keeps up. It’s been inspired by The Slits, and much later, the B52s. Rolls of drums and percussion join harmonies as the track heads towards a crescendo. Symmetry is the order of the day, with the two vocalists sing and crave “I need more sugar.”
A carefully plucked bass opens Electric Eel. This time, the bass is alone. Symmetry plays an important part in Phall Fatale’s sound. They deploy two basses and two vocalists. Here, though, the arrangement unfolds slowly, and dramatically. The lone bass is accompanied by a smattering of electronics and a slow, lone vocal. It adds to the drama. Soon, though, the tempo increases and the bases unite with the drums. They soon fatten up the sound. One vocal becomes two as tempo increases only to decrease. Stop-start describes the arrangement. Meanwhile, elements of jazz, funk, electronica, avant pop and even hip hop combine. There’s even a diversion via avant garde and free jazz, whilst a hint of the Caribbean shines through, on this genre-melting musical adventure from musical mavericks Phall Fatale.
Rather than plucked, the double bass is played like a cello as Fish Tank unfolds. This produces an almost discordant, but captivating sound. One wonders where this Fish Tank is heading? A vocal almost lacking in feeling is accompanied by just basses. Then effects shroud the nihilistic vocal. It’s full of desperation singing: “I wish I could die.” After that, nihilism gives way to a much more melodic vocal. Still, though, hope is absent, as the two contrasting vocals flit in and out. As they do, Phall Fatale conbine avant garde, experimental, indie pop, jazz and post punk, on what’s akin to a cathartic unburdening, or cry for help.
Ring The Bell lasts just under a minute, but during that time, Phall Fatale’s two vocalists become one. They draw inspiration from hip hop, dancehall and even Indian vocal percussion exercises. It’s very different from what’s gone before, and showcases Joana Aderi and Joy Frempong considerable vocal prowess.
Relentless, buzzing synths open Crocodile, while effects shroud Joana and Joy’s vocals. They deliver a vocal full of emotion and hope, encouraging even those from the humblest of backgrounds, never to settle for second best. Anything is possible sings Joy and Joana against a post punk arrangement. That’s until it becomes stop-start, and a bowed cello interjects. This works, and offers a contrast. Later, Phall Fatale are at their most inventive. Futuristic, otherworldly, sci-fi sounds chatter, as synths buzz, guitars grind and drums pound. This results in a delicious cacophony of eclectic, leftfield sounds. They play what’s an alternative, 21st Century mini-symphony. It takes detours via avant garde, industrial and musique concrète, before the track becomes melodic with subtle hooks.
Slowly and deliberately percussion plays on Tree House. Already, there’s more than a hint of musique concrète and industrial music. When the vocal enters, it’s delivered earnestly and dramatically. By now, Phall Fatale seem to have been partly inspired by Portishead. The music becomes cinematic, haunting, moody, as they draw inspiration from avant grade and experimental music. In doing so, one of the highlights of Moonlit Bang Bang slowly takes shape.
Rumbling drums and grinding synths join the deliberate vocal on Funny Money. Soon, the arrangement becomes melodic, with world music just one of the disparate genres that have influenced Phall Fatale. They turn their guns on the machinations of the greedy and some would say, incompetent bankers who caused the financial crash. Funny Money finds Phall Fatale combining social comment with subtle hooks, and a multiplicity of musical genres. It’s a potent mix.
Un Grand Sommeil finds a lone plucked bass combining with cymbals that are almost caressed. They set the scene for a heartfelt, emotive and haunting delivery of Paul Verlaine’s poem. It’s truly beautiful and most memorable.
Pans ring out on Sleeping Beauty, while percussion punctuates the meander arrangement. After forty-five seconds, the vocal enters. It’s delivered with emotion. Meanwhile, drums pound, while pans and percussion add an understated backdrop. That’s till the arrangement explodes, and heads in the direction of post punk. At the chorus, the vocal is delivered in call and response style. By then, the Sleeping Beauty has awakened from her slumbers. That’s until the arrangement becomes stop-start. This is one of Phall Fatale’s favourite tricks. It works though, and adds to the drama, energy and electricity of the track.
It’s always risky covering a track by a true musical icon. However, Phall Fatale take that risk on Jimi Hendrix’s Manic Depression. Literally, the arrangement explodes into life, before dissipating. Then Phall Fatale’s vocalists sound as if they’re living the lyrics. Their vocals are shrouded in effects, while a battery of electronics and effects crackles and bristles. Again the arrangement becomes stop start, veering between explosive and blistering, to a much more understated, experimental sound. From there, Manic Depression becomes a musical merry-go-round, where Phall Fatale pay homage to a true musical legend, Jimi Hendrix, in their own, inimitable way.
Night closes Moonlit Bang Bang. A bowed bass produces an eerie, otherworldly backdrop. This is perfect for the vocal, as Anne Bronte’s words come to life. They’re delivered slowly, earnestly, and dramatically. Meanwhile, a wash of sound gradually builds. Cymbals ring out, and Anne Bronte’s wistful words take on new meaning. It’s the perfect way to close Phall Fatale’s long-awaited sophomore album, Moonlit Bang Bang.
Some things are well worth waiting for. Moonlit Bang Bang is one of these things. Music fans have waited three long years for the followup to Charcoal From Fire. However, their patience has been rewarded, and Moonlit Bang Bang will be released on Slowfoot Records on 15th January 2016. It’s an album that shows how Phall Fatale had grown and matured as a band.
Despite featuring twelve tracks, Phall Fatale never let their standards slip on Moonlit Bang Bang. It’s a captivating musical journey through what’s a disparate selection of genres. There’s everything from avant garde, ambient and avante pop to Caribbean and classical through electronica and experimental via free jazz, industrial, musique concrète and rock. That’s not forgetting a hint of funk, reggae and soul, plus plenty of post punk stylings. Moonlit Bang Bang is a truly eclectic album; one that takes the listener on a roller coaster ride through the music of the past fifty years.
That’s not surprising. Phall Fatale have been inspired by Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix, Iannis Xenakis and Albert Ayler. That’s not all. On Moonlit Bang Bang, they’ve been influenced by. Everyone from Grace Jones through to Portishead, via The Slits, and The B52. This myriad of influences results in a musical potpourri. However, it works.
Producer Roli Mosimann is given the job of bringing together the talents and energy of Phall Fatale on Moonlit Bang Bang. He’s worked with JG Thirlwell, Young Gods, New Order, The The, Faith No More Studer, and almost effortlessly and seamlessly, harnesses the combined and considerable talents of Phall Fatale.
Together, the five musical mavericks that makeup Phall Fatale, have produced an album that’s variously eclectic, inventive, melodic and sometimes, beautiful, poignant music. Other times, the music has a fragility, and bristles with emotion. Then just as quickly, Phall Fatale kick out the james and unleash a post punk powerhouse. That’s why, musically, Phall Fatale are something of an enigma, who are always capable of springing a surprise, and taking the listener in the most unexpected direction, on what’s a truly captivating musical adventure, Moonlit Bang Bang.
PHALL FATALE-MOONLIT BANG BANG.