“The soundworlds she has made her own squirm with electronic communication, where the pulses she sets down are both rhythms and messages yet to be decoded.” – THE WIRE
“From a quiet murmur to a euphoric wail” – ELECTRONIC SOUND
PHEW releases her latest album, New Decade, today on limited edition clear vinyl, CD and digitally via Mute: https://mute.ffm.to/phew.
Already well accustomed to working in isolation at home, keeping her voice down in order not to annoy the neighbours, New Decade is a stark and haunted album, populated by voices that intone empty pleasantries in English and Japanese or manifest as wordless shrieks and groans, against a backdrop of fractured, dubbed-out electronics.
Phew explains that there’s a loose concept running through the album, relating to the perception of time. “During the ’80s, and up until the ’90s, things progressed along a line from past to present to future, but I think that’s changed, especially since the start of the 21st century. Personally speaking, I’ve stopped being able to see a future that extends from the present.”
This is reflected in the unplaceable character of her current work. It’s not deliberately retro in the manner of many analogue synth revivalists, nor does Phew waste time trying to catch up with the latest trends. It’s music out of time, resonating to its own peculiar frequency.
Rising to prominence with the art-punk group Aunt Sally before her first solo release in 1981, recorded at Conny Plank’s studio in Cologne with Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, New Decade is her first for Mute since 1992’s Our Likeness. This latest phase of her career – first heard on the Japan-only New World (2015) – has delivered the purest distillation of Phew’s artistic voice, even as she’s diligently stripped the music of sentiment. “That’s why I’m grateful I make electronic music,” she says. “If I was just singing, it would end up being about expressing my emotions, but with synthesisers you have to think really logically. I’m constantly busy, so I don’t have time for things like that!”
The album is an emotive listen and uneasy at times, but far from inaccessible. There is a warmth that channels her environment and conveys the mood of her continually well-travelled life.
Buy / listen to the album: https://mute.ffm.to/phew
Days Nights (video directed by Masayuki Shioda): https://youtu.be/a8weU44xAOA
‘Into The Stream’ (video directed by Lisa Aoki), https://youtu.be/p5xSxDRBgKQ
Phew – New Decade tracklisting
Snow and Pollen