dave phillips & randy h. y. yau - illusion is a natural condition

CD, 2005, Auscultare, San Francisco.   Available

Dprhy front

Dprhy back

drawings by Leif Elggren


Five years in the making, Illusion Is a Natural Condition brings together two of the finest noise artists the world has ever witnessed. Sure, Merzbow and Hijokaidan can hit you with their molten sounds of psychedelic excess; but San Francisco’s Randy Yau and Switzerland’s Dave Phillips achieve their tempestous recordings through a violent dichotomy between silence and sound. This sharp contrast effectively puts you on edge throughout the listening experience, as you never know when the next attack is going to arrive. In any given track, Yau and Phillips pack together recordings of their gutteral screams and dribbling gurgles of one of the actionists shoving something down his throat that just doesn’t belong there. Occasionally, the sound of flies circle around the sickened vocalizations, as if investigating a hospital patient with a sucking chest wound. Pigs squeal. Demons roar. All of these sounds are compressed into tracks rarely longer than a minute, punctured by extended silences and ruptured by terse blasts of motorized noise and absurdly rendered ultra-violence that would bring joy (or is that pain?) to die-hard Wolf Eyes’ fans. Recommended noise for those with a very strong stomach.


Packed in a jewel case with wrap around, all lovingly designed by Leif Elggren, comes a collaboration between Dave Philips and Randy Yau. Philips is a member of Ohne, Fear Of God, Sudden Infant and Schimpfluch gruppe. Yau is known from his various releases on Ground Fault and 23Five Incorporated and plays a kind of noise music that is not too dissimilar from Philips. ‘Illusion Is A Natural Condition’ was recorded over a period of five years, and all the even tracks on this are by Dave Philips reworking Yau, and the odd tracks are vice versa. There are no less than thirty seven tracks on this, some of these are very short. Both artists have taken notion of the Schimpfluch sound: lots of voice related sounds, burps and belches, cut very short, with likewise cut short electronic and analogue sounds. Although occasionally there are longer tracks, such as number seventeen (no titles). Even when this could be seen as noise music, it’s rather physical action music. Somehow I don’t think these boys sit behind a desk to record whatever they are doing. Rather, it seems to me, they perform all sort of actions, involving sounds and their bodies to create the source material, which is then used by the other (and in which case they might sit down and work on it, but perhaps they perform more actions around them). Yau performs the somewhat longer tracks than Philips, but throughout it’s not easy to follow who did, and I deem this is not very important either. It’s a very intense disc, leaving the listener rather breathless. Powerful, good noise. A rarity!

(Frans De Waard, VITAL)

These guys have been smacking away at this collaboration-by-mail noise freakout tennis match for five years. Let’s say that again: FIVE YEARS. That’s a long time to pass recordings back and forth, in the process whittling once mighty redwoods of sound down to needle sharp audio-toothpicks suitable for piercing the eardrums of woodlice. Such fidelity to the cause of unholy screaming and hyper-tight edits is all too rare amongst fickle scenesters, and should be applauded. Plus, they make a dashing couple: respectively they hold the European and American crown in post-aktionist extreme vocal performance (conveniently, Rudolf Eb.er lives in Japan, so he can fight for the Asian title with Masonna). Here they let the backwards gurgles and clogged-drain lung abuse soften you up before they start the panic and bust loose with a disorted flare of pitch shifted growled screaming that successfully turns human beings into lions. Good things are worth waiting for.

(Drew Daniel)

Wow, this came as a surprise. I popped this puppy into the player and I was immediately impressed with the vibration emanating from the cones. R.H.Y. Yau is an artist that has been around for quite some time now and has an extensive discography included releases on RRR and Groundfault. I have both those releases and have seen him live once before which is a whole other experience (in a good way). Dave Phillips has at least one release on Groundfault which I have never heard and besides that is complete unknown to me. The noise they create on this collaborative effort is a mixture of fast cut-up harsh noise, musique concrete, pseudo-ambient and electro-acoustic music. This is release has been expertly crafted and is a fascinating and engaging listen using many elements that would usually be a recipe for disaster, but instead make this a perfect testament that even ‘farting into a microphone’ can be art. The bulk of this disc consists of material that ranges from quiet manipulated mouth samples and field recordings to intensely loud quickly changing harsh noise spurts almost always in the most unexpected places. The tracks trade off with R.H.Y. Yau remixing David Phillips material on the odd tracks, and Dave Phillips remixing Yau on the even. Generally the even tracks are the noisiest which isn’t surprising considering that most of Yau’s material would reside in the harsh noise realm. Although I have to admit I have previously found Yau to be a mixed bag. I wasn’t too keen on the albums I have previously heard (the RRR and Groundfault) release. Not to say they were bad but the combination of lo-fi mouth noises mixed with almost harsh noise never completely did it for me. This however, a few years down the road seems to be a refinement of his style and combined with some of the best production I have ever heard in a noise release the sounds come across loud and clear as they never had before. The most significant thing about this release is its consistency. From the moment you set eyes on the high contrast artwork (some of which can be seen on the promo sheet linked above) you get a sense that this release is making things seem simpler then they actually are. But low and behold the ‘high contrast’ aesthetic is followed directly with the sounds translating into a ‘loud/soft’ method of arranging sounds. This subtle relationship between artwork and sound is something that rarely is seen with underground releases and it really adds a depth to the concept that is just plain impressive. On top of this the packaging is also an example of minimalist artwork done right. For music that generally resides in the abstract realm these sounds are very clear in their intent. When listening, you instantly get a feeling of blood and sweat, of the human body up close and personal. Not only all the things you love about it, but all the things you hate as well, all the things that gross you out. In fact, in track 28 they even go as far as to explore farting and burping noises which on one side gets a little silly, but with the lack of lyrics or any other traces of comedy this falls into a much more absurd school of thought then anything going for a cheap laugh. There is also an internal angst lurking underneath all of this when one steps back and sees it all as a whole; the drawings with all the faces scribbled over, the sounds that always end in a violent orgy of spastic noise. This release has a depth that reaches beyond where most music and art attempts to go, and when they do attempt to go there they do not successfully delve as far as R.H.Y. Yau and Dave Phillips have on Illusion is a Natural Condition.


Although I am quite familiar with the works of Dave Phillips, I’ve never really had much experience with RHY Yau. I’ve heard some tracks on his website, his contribution to “The End Of The Fear Of God” and his album with Kazumoto Endo, but that’s pretty much it. That being said, I can pick out his style: various vocal sounds interspersed with electronic noises, wavering between harsh and quiet. It’s pretty Schimpfluch-esque in nature, so it only makes sense to pair him with Phillips.

And their styles blend really well here. Although I can hear Yau more than Phillips, the latter’s sound does come through on several tracks. Perhaps the most Dave Phillips moment in this album comes in track 13, where he creates a dense forest of breathing, electronics, and (possibly) field recordings. You can even even hear bits from his Ground Fault release in a few tracks.

Another thing about this album that impresses me is its dynamic range. At its most quiet, you could barely hear anything without turning the volume just a little. At its loudest, it practically JUMPS out the speakers, as if a sound demon was just about to drag you to auditory hell. Sometimes these extremes happen RIGHT after one another. And other times there are bits of dead silence that are JUST long enough to make you think your sound system has given up the ghost.

All in all, “Illusion Is A Natural Condition” is a terrific release, from its minuscule opener to its cathartic finish. Perhaps a bit less focused on Phillips than I would’ve liked, but still a harrowing, dynamic, and frightening album. Those who can’t get enough of the Schimpfluch sound will definitely be all over it.

(Eric Ortiz, Discogs.com, September 2019)