The band’s rock-based approach hasn’t changed but they intensify it in every detail, adding new harmonic and rhythmic impulses and a more prog-metal-influenced sound – without compromising their strong and coherent songwriting.
The new album has everything: more focus, more detail, more polyrhythm and delicately woven complexity. “Cycles” displays more epic width, more grandiose melodies, more thrill, more heaviness – and ultimately more resolution than ever before. A fascinating album.
A deep cut
One man becomes a parent, the other enters a convent and the third discovers a new instrument: the path to far-reaching changes in the creative world is as diffuse as it is unpredictable. For years Markus Bratusa, mastermind of Phi, has looked for the golden ratio – or, as they say in his native Vienna, Austria: der Goldene Schnitt (“the golden cut”) – in the musical context: the perfect mixture of rock n’ roll and artistic sophistication. Then there was a careless episode in the kitchen: that is where he found the crucial ingredient for Cycles. Who would have thought that the golden ratio would affect a finger…
Phi have been active for more than ten years and have long become a respected member of Europe’s progressive rock scene. And yet the band has so far not achieved big the goal that is referenced in the group’s name: the golden ratio, the perfect proportion between rock power and artistic aspiration. Up until now the approach had always been based on collaborative composing within the walls of the rehearsal space. But how does a guitarist play his instrument when he has cut his left index finger in his role as an amateur chef? He just does not play. Confronted with the aforementioned situation in the songwriting process Markus Bratusa chose to simply take the bull by the horns and started composing “dry” for the first time: straight from head to paper, no filters.
It may be irony, maybe even destiny, but cutting his finger paved Bratusa’s way to find the golden ratio of rock n’ roll. The songs are still the beating heart of the artistic organism that is Phi, but the new way of thinking, displayed on Cycles, has brought with it revolutionary harmonic as well as rhythmic impulses that set free unforeseen energy resources, clearly apparent in the more metal-influenced nuances. Add to this the fact that Bratusa had to build an entirely new lineup for Cycles, which he used to overhaul every seemingly irrefutable premise in a, both bold as well as radical way. That is how the band was able to develop so immensely, at such an impressive speed. And do not forget: all that happened in what was only a matter of a few years.
In terms of content and lyrics Markus Bratusa has been hard at work trying to reconcile beauty with transience and mortality for years, which may sound like the closest thing to a suicide mission. But the revamped and more distanced approach of Cycles has provided the songwriter with the clearest, emotionally boldest and – without the trace of a doubt – most honest view on the issue to date. Where a less courageous artist might have resorted to hiding behind monumentally big words of emotionality in their lyrics, the Austrian opens himself up and gifts the listener with unrestricted honesty.
Markus Bratusa (vocals, guitar, synthesizer, sound design), new addition Stefan Helige (guitar), Arthur Darnhofer-Demár (bass, he left the band shortly after recording finished) as well as returnee Nick Koch (drums, percussion, keys, programming, backing vocals) have dared big on their new release and that has not only provided them with tremendous energy but also the courage to use it and ultimately create the great accomplishment that is Cycles.
The new album has everything: more focus, more detail, more polyrhythm and delicately woven complexity. Cycles displays more epic width, more grandiose melodies, more thrill, more heaviness – and ultimately more resolution. All that remains of that “golden cut” in the finger is an insignificant scar – and a fascinating album.
|Media||CD (Jewel Case mit O-Card)||GAOM055|
|Label||Gentle Art Of Music|
Although Austria’s PHI first appeared on people’s radars and created quite a stir in the progressive/art rock scene with their last album “Now the Waves of Sound Remain”, these post-prog prodigies had already been active for years and years prior to that. The band now prove that fact impressively with their first live album: on “Waves over Vienna” the trio does not only present brilliant songs off of their current album but PHI also showcases gems from earlier releases.
Steeped in tradition Vienna club “dasBach” proved to be the perfect location to commence with the recording of this very special live album on 30 April 2015. This venue does not only provide the intense compact format of a sweaty club but also meets sound and technical requirements of the highest caliber perfectly. Thanks to the fact that the most loyal among the band’s fans gathered at “dasBach” to become a part of this documentation of the live prowess of PHI, who perform as a classic rock trio, the record has a warm feeling of familiarity about itself.
“For years, friends, fans and fellow musicians have been complimenting us, indicating that our live concerts develop their very own dynamic; something that goes well beyond just being the sum of the musical parts of our studio records. Consequently, whenever we prepare for a record, we always try to find new ways of capturing that certain ‘something.’ So, actually it was that form of constant self-searching that originated the idea of recording a live album,” says Markus Bratusa, singer and guitarist.
The fact that the record does not only come with a live CD but also a complementary DVD of the concert is due to the fresh, happy-go-lucky – and yet very motivated – approach of these young musicians. “We didn’t know what was going to become of all this. The plan was to simply play as many of our own favorite songs in a stress-free environment – and then handpick the best material.”
While one part of PHI is constantly reaching for the future, a different one is deeply rooted in the band’s foundations. Finally, on stage all the band’s influences merge and ultimately culminate in powerful songs and sounds. This creates a particular fusion of artistic agility, heavy grooves and Markus Bartusa’s uniquely sonorous voice. That mixture always provides for excitement and moments of surprise. “This is the first time that the band really sounds the way I had envisioned it as a child. In that respect one can say that I managed to fulfill one of my biggest dreams with this. And I also hope that we can incorporate a whole lot of these elements into the process of future studio productions. If an interested lover of music asked me about it, I’d say that, in terms of performance, sound and the ultimate song selection, ‘Waves over Vienna’ perfectly epitomizes the first phase of this band – almost like a best of-compilation,” says the singer.
The band’s label debut “Now the Waves of Sound Remain” which was released by Gentle Art of Music in the autumn of 2014 is the main focus of “Waves over Vienna”. In addition, however, the album also has songs off of two EPs as well as two albums in stall that the band’s members had both produced and released themselves – when they were merely teenagers. For contextual coherence all the thematic elements were intertwined and even partially rearranged. The hard work has paid off, because this live record now works as one massive unit – which may come as a surprise, considering the multitude of artistic innovation that is comprised on the album.
“‘Waves over Vienna’ feels like the exclamation mark to the end of the prologue of this band’s story, to me. The course for the future is set – and believe me, we still have a whole lot to say…”
|Media||CD (incl. DVD)||GAOM039|
|Label||Gentle Art Of Music|
… with a double bottom
That everything has somehow been done before one way or another? Everybody knows that. That not getting trapped artistically is paramount in today’s music industry? We already know that, too. That a vast variety of despicable abominations are done to art these days? We already know that. How to maneuver around all those traps elegantly? Where mere sounds and thoughts amalgamate and become art? That is what three guys from Austria’s Styria are here to show you. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is: ‘Now The Waves Of Sound Remain’ by Phi.
After being formed in 2006 and achieving first respectable successes in 2008, Phi have since released their critically acclaimed album Years Of Breathing and consequently toured the stages of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Romania and Lithuania. By means of their brand new album ‘Now The Waves Of Sound Remain’, the power trio now presents the fascinating result of the artistic vision that the band likes to call ‘double bottom’.
Finding the formula for how to reach the perfect mixture of raw power and deep emotion; how to fuse a love of elements of the past with the natural curiosity of one’s own artistic evolution, without compromising the very own distinct voice; finding that sweet spot where inexorable force coexists with big feelings in perfect harmony – despite enormous complexity. That is the approach that Markus Bratusa (vocals, guitar, programming), Arthur Darnhofer-Demár (bass, vocals) and Gabe Cresnar (drums), all established in the vicinity of Vienna’s legendary Hallucination Company, have been following and have now brought to an impressive conclusion through the release of ‘Now The Waves Of Sound Remain’.
On this record the mighty walls of Tool’s guitar sound meet the driving rhythms of Rush and gently merge with sophisticated arrangements that resemble the delicacy of Porcupine Tree. The Jeff Buckley-esque jazzy elegance provides the music with the final ingredient that completes the fused aesthetic of the old and the new.
In order to make this album the comprehensive experience that it has ultimately become, Phi have created and implemented a textual concept in which the discourse on music’s role, its significance, its drift into banality and the corresponding deterioration in value in today’s society functions as a backdrop for a both detailed as well as cynical analysis of major issues. The enormously powerful message of this album lies in the fusion of emotion and the coolness of the intellectual: art is so much more than only a mere product. ‘Now The Waves Of Sound Remain’ challenges the boundaries: this is music with a ‘double bottom’.
To give this record the scope that it deserves Phi joined forces with Gentle Art Of Music, the label owned by RPWL-duo Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner. Furthermore, the final touch of the album’s sound was provided by none other than Jon Astley, whose earlier accomplishments include works of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Tori Amos and Anathema. Phi are real artists – thanks to the ‘double bottom’.
|Label||Gentle Art Of Music|