Sven Phalanx is a prolific fellow. Last year he released two full-length albums plus an EP under the name of Phalanx feat the White Rabbit. Earlier this year he announced that Phalanx… was changing its name to Schattenspiel. This change in name heralds a new stage in Sven’s musical journey. Schattenkrieger by Schattenspiel builds on the previous Phalanx releases and takes things to the next level. The old duo of Phalanx and the White Rabbit (a young lady, in case you were wondering) has expanded to a quartet with the addition of Iris Traumann and the Space Cat (another young lady, in case you hadn’t guessed.) A small cohort of special guests also help out here and there.
‘Sturmwarnung’ (a collaboration with Barbarossa Umtrunk) sounds like Carl Orff on steroids – with big orchestral crashes, massed choirs chanting and military drum rolls. ‘El Gato Negro’ slows things right down, with hushed Spanish vocals from Argentinian act Igniis, delicate piano filigrees, low drones, and occasional tympani hits. ‘Symphony of Loneliness’ (a collaboration with Orpheus Enthroned) is like the ghost of ambient techno, where the beats have been bleached out, leaving just fragments of dolorous violin and piano melodies, and an underlying rhythmic pulse – this is Sven Phalanx at his most pure, with no concessions to trends or fads. ‘U-29’ (again with Igniis) is an evocation of submarine ambience, with sonar pings, aqueous sounds trickling from speaker to speaker, sustained brass lines, and sampled voices all contributing to the claustrophobic atmosphere. ‘Vaeterchen Frost’s is a wintry song full of space, with staccato strings, echoing beats, and guest Art Abscons’ inimitable vocals, gentle and laden with sehnsucht.
All in all, this album is a wonderful collection of neoclassical, dark ambient and military pop sounds, fully realising the promise of earlier Phalanx releases.