Dave Phillips – Homo Animalis (Schimpfluch)


Homo Animalis is unrelentingly dark, foreboding, and at times grim and malevolent sound art. Electrics are mixed on equal footing with the primal, with the human voice, and undefined animalistic roars, with deep guttural growling and terrifying screeching to create an unsettling edgy uncomfortable landscape.

Swiss based sound artist Dave Phillips seems to love the drama, he loves to induce palpitations in the listener, enacting the fight or flight response with impossibly deep, impossibly close mic’d growling often occurring in tandem with multiple dogs barking. Lots of inhuman sounds appear and disappear throughout the pieces, meshed together in an unwieldy web of voluminous sound.

Phillips periodically utilises sound art strategies, like abrupt cuts to move to a different passage, and ramps in volume, frequency or density as a passageway into a new world. He seems particularly interested in the abrupt as a mechanism to shock. This not the kind of soundscape you sink into. Phillips wants you on the edge of your seat, shell-shocked, jumping at shadows.

Spread over two discs, and composed and recorded between 2007 and 2011, some of the material has been previously released on limited cassette runs, though there is a significant amount that has never seen the light of day. The mood alters somewhat across the work, with surprising moments of humour; even cartoon ghoulishness hidden amongst the grim and disturbing soundscapes.

Phillips has dealt in the abrasive and extreme for years, initially as a member of Swiss hardcore/ grindcore band Fear of God in the mid 80′ and philosophically teaming up with Rudolf Eb.er and Joke Lanz in the Schimpfluch Gruppe, a collective of like minded artists drawn to “psycho-physical tests and trainings,” creating a unique kind of musique concrete brutalism. This is the first release on their new label, Schimpfluch Associates.

In the liner notes Phillips thanks folks as diverse as Philip K Dick and Francisco Lopez and espouses his concept of humanimal theory which he suggests reduces the over reliance on the intellect and shifts towards the emotional. It’s a move away from materialism towards an empathetic relationship with the world and its creatures. Though to be fair there feels like a disconnect between those concepts and the sounds he exhibits here, with periodic screaming and guttural animalistic growling, high pitches dense roars of both instrumentation and electronics, it feels like the sounds are in the power of some kind of ancient primordial force. There are moments here, particularly the piece Kelelwar b, which uses treated sounds of an Indonesian flying fox, which with its wall of sound screeching over 15 endless minutes, is truly disturbing. On all the pieces here the human, the animal, the environment and the musical are all given equal footing in the mix.

Homo Animalis is compelling but demanding, a muscular form of doom sound art, offering an ill defined menace, a cacophony of sounds and worlds colliding into a new primal world that sonically speaking is nothing short of terrifying.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.