dave phillips - human nature denied

cd / digital, 2023, Flag Day Recordings, USA.   Available

cd edition 250






Let not the commonly used western world forename/surname combination ‘Dave Phillips’ lull you into a sense that this release is anything close to something conjured by the general man in the street. Said man requiring a four to the floor pacing and an Aspinal Of London shoulder tote bag of white pills to merely access a Blakenall dance floor on a Tuesday afternoon. For this auditory abrasion he would require felo-de-se to align his empirical reasoning beyond pressing ‘play’. Heralding track titles such as “Humanity Is The Virus”, “See Man Fall” and “This Civilization Causes Sickness” at its most creamy clotted core carries the poundage of epiphany that you are the fucking contention in your Adidas size nines, you are the fucking daily complication and your very beingness en masse is the cause of the country’s decay. Upon final listen the white vapid observer comes to the realisation that this eight track journey through a body inverted to the air was a living thing, not lazily sampled and looped and certainly not stacked for commercial use. Whilst the body still continues its daily thriving procedures of fibrous digestion/uninspiring ejaculation; dealing with the macro exaggerated intestinal peristalsis; personal inner functions and authentic circulatory flows are theatrically performed external to the body inverted to a crowd of interested proletariat. The body of this piece still writhes in this arrested state of inversion whereby the crowd stream high definition images across Snapchat to boast that they were present for this grim circumstance, film for future WhatsApp shares to drain the juice of a simple gloat for a simple folk, but none dare to care, endeavour to aid this inversion mistake and we all partake in the display attended, riantly pointing out this inverted persons fault line. All internal workings are on display in track one “most events are unsayable, occur in a space that no word penetrates” where over 10 minutes the listener is privvy to the dragged body of the inverted to a wintery clearing, orifice grunts and an oesophageal flush are intelligibly pored over amongst the scrawny atonal music and creaking boards. Guttural lung whispers pierce the ambience of track two “We Are Not Seperate” as we gauge the equivalence between the inverted body and our own lives behind the well constructed lie. Voices mouth structure but fail miserably between other distant voices attempting toothless communication. Track three “A Species Awkward Childhood” finally opens up the release beyond the field recordings and dank ambience with a suspended noise before silenced by the rasping whimper of a single inverted person. Begs for attention and to be absolute, to be like the others in the wintery clearing, whose obvious remarks and jeers dictate the genuine emotion to be enclosed, sewn up, suppressed and encased in the self. This theatre of the space between the crowd and the self is a fulfilment of the bodies climax into wet appetites quenched. “See Man Fall” now permits us a silence, a moment to take stock of our surroundings in the clearing where the voice is captured north of the quilted lips release; ensnared in a Georgian cut glass preserve jar for routine examination and private inhalation while the writing hand is busy at the crotch fabric. “Wrecking The Planet and Degrading Its Inhabitants” is as self explanatory at the audio stitched into air. In the clicking of the grasshopper hind legs and the unformed speech off wet lower lips. We are inside the inverted body now where the pubic hair grows thick into autonomous clumps of obstruction, perhaps to go no further than the compacted pores of knitted skin. “This Civilization Causes Sickness” is a voice from the inverted belly of external soft rind, staring out at an existence where the safest place is inside the fractured self. Far away from the moist complaints and unfounded comments of the ill gathering folk where saliva is served in shot glasses to the most insincere ones. Guzzle down used mucus rags, priced cheap for the destitute. “Humanity Is The Virus”, never a truer tiding were stitched into matter but what are we to do with this concept? Remain obstructed snug in the inverted body’s inadvertent gut crease? Or choose to depart and face humanity head on? How would we attain this manoeuvre? As pharyngeal as the narrator of this track, with a vitality that points to nihil as advancement. “SARS-COV2 Is A Vaccine” becomes our shibboleth, or axis of progress in the fresh employ, disseminate the virus impersonally from the inverted core of the self, until the cleanse of the ageing international becomes the new. The black repetitions are now deciphered from mouths no longer filled with hotel bathroom rags but of folk chanting the extremity of everything. This warped judgment ends only after your fourteen minutes of excruciation in the aural sex forced upon the perceiver. How will you walk through twenty-four hours beyond this?

(Bluegrass Guitar Music Reviews, October 2023)

As one of the founding members of The Schimpffluch Gruppe, indisputably some of the most daring sonic explorers to come out of Switzerland in the last 50 years, Dave Phillips travels faithfully along a similar trajectory of acoustic provocation and agitation on his new CD Human Nature Denied.

As one might gather from the title, this collection of eight compositions deals with the plague that humankind is, wreaking havoc and destruction on the natural forces of our planet. To these ends, the music on Human Nature Denied often inhabits a territory of foreboding and darkness. There is much in the way of howling voices, crashing objects, looming shadows of feedback and deep standing waves of sound hunkering down like great blue wales awaiting their eventual extinction. Much like the socioacoustic nature of Luc Ferrari’s compositions, at times employing the sonic textures of harbors and neighborhood streets, the sound objects Phillips sets to motion in his pieces function as more than just signposts giving structure and atmosphere to the music. Rather, they serve as psychoacoustic instigators, communicating beyond what words can to transmit the bleak message of our mindless, self-imposed destruction. All of which can easily be discerned from track titles such as See Man Fall, Wrecking the Planet and Degrading Its Inhabitants or This Civilization Causes Sickness. Despite the programmatic titles to these pieces, Phillips’ music offers the listener much room to find a way to navigate these sounds. Though often dense in texture, the music never becomes flat or distilled down to one dynamic level. The sheer depth of Phillips’ sound events invites the listener to dive in and inhabit this expansive world with the composer. There are plenty of twists and turns in each piece, with sources as disparate as piano, string instruments, whacking pieces of metal, creaking floorboards, whispered voices, environmental recordings or screeching feedback making their entrance and moving serenely across the soundstage to wait in the wings until their next call. For the most part, the pieces never enter full conflagration-mode, pulling back just long enough to allow the listener a brief space of repose to catch their breath. As counterpoint to the dire atmosphere coursing through the CD, the tracks on Human Nature Denied exude the kind of majestic pageantry one might hear in some of Scelsi’s later works. Phillips’ music moves along in a similarly unhurried pace, though a sense of nerve-wracking tension imbues each track, giving one the impression that, indeed, time is quickly running out. Add to this a certain bombastic aplomb calling to mind the organ pieces of Hermann Nitsch, and one might have a vague sense along which line of sonic discourse Phillips’ work on this new CD hews closest to. Not unlike Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, which sought to assail the senses of the audience, Phillips’s work lunges at our sensibilities, challenging our complacency with a music that grabs you by the throat and won’t let you loose until you’ve finally come around to giving some thought about what is happening to the planet. The final piece of the CD, Sars-COV2 Is a Vaccine, underscores this proposition. Starting with rhythmic chanting, not unlike the final scene in Apocalypse Now where Captain Willard has killed Colonel Kurtz and walks out to find the indigenous denizens of the encampment hailing him as their new leader, perhaps it is Phillips hearing these very same voices in his head, ultimately resigned to our inevitable fate. If so, then I suspect in a strangely optimistic way. In that once we are all finally gone, whatever’s left alive on this post-apocalyptic planet will be free to make a new start. At last mercifully rid of the deadly virus that humankind undoubtedly is.

(Jason Kahn, Dusted Magazine, February 2023)