Stephen Philips: Yukon

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Washington DC-area electronic artist Stephen Philips returns under his "Deep Chill Network" byline to bring us another album of dark, atonal electronica. There are four shorter pieces at the beginning, and then two extended pieces in the main body of the album. Track 1, "Cold Breeze," sounds quite appropriate with a hissing deep drone; track 2, "Ice Crystals," features water-like drips and glassy tinkling sounds. Track 3, "Droplets," is the only piece that has any kind of recognizable harmony, synthesizer tones which are accompanied by retro-electronic bleeps and woops. Track 4, "Harsh Reality," gives us a selection of metallic drones, swooping up and down in pitch, along with some zaps and high- low hums. All of these pieces are "over-echoed" with an echo machine which adds some extra drone of its own when it is allowed to run unchecked.

The next piece, "Isolated Depths," lasts about 26 minutes and is a big long drone affair punctuated by zaps and swoops, and interspersed with heavy pulse tones which are sometimes so low that they are hard to hear. The last piece, "Ominous Stranger," lasts just short of 30 minutes and is all drones, with less variety of sound and more extreme use of ultra-low pulses and click tracks.

This is certainly not "musical" in the conventional sense of the word; it has little rhythm and almost no harmony. It is definitely not for the casual listener or for an ambient fan who wants a relaxing "atmosphere." Its drones and sound effects are purely experimental, along the lines of many highly abstract types of electronica currently being produced in the USA and in Europe. And although Philips wishes to evoke the frigid wastelands of the North, I was more reminded of outer space and even UFO's by these sounds. The toneless low drones could be the sound of the engines of a futuristic starship; the buzzes, bleeps and clicks could be the language of some other sentient, but very alien, visitors.

Record Label: Dark Duck Records

Style: Ambient


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