[Reviewed by stark]
For the second time in a short period of time I’m dealing with an album filled with cosmic dark ambient. A week ago, I reviewed the excellent “Enceladus” by Sphäre Sechs, today it’s time for “Spheres” by Phantom Ship, a project coming from Italy. It was just at the very beginning though that it fooled me, with this space related cover and titles, as the album opens with a wistful piano melody. A glance at the cover … well, it’s just the intro. A little too prolix for my taste, especially since the whole album is not very long.
After five and a half minutes, we get down to business. Phantom Ship has been wandering in the dark ambient scene since 2011. Before “Spheres” Roberto Faloci released four CDr-s, three of them self-released, including a recording of a live performance. The Italian knows what the genre is all about. “Orbiting Iron Spheres” smoothly mixes dark atmospheres, a little more aggressively than “Enceladus”, I have to admit ,and the melodies create the impression of dealing with something great, sublime and infinite; because this is how space looks like in Phantom Ship’s interpretation – menacing and powerful but at the same time not as inaccessible as the vision of it created by Sphäre Sechs. I’m sorry I’m referring too often to this recent release by Malignant – just I have it fresh in my mind and juxtaposing it with “Spheres” seems to be quite interesting, because it shows that in a seemingly narrow musical niche, a subgenre of an already very hermetic genre, completely different ways to form the whole concept might exist.
In “Warp7” a human element can be found, scraps of some voice transmissions coming from a station drifting in space to its NASA base on Earth (or the other way round). On “Spheres”, according to Roberto’s vision, a man struggles to interact with at least a microscopic fraction of the universe, and to tame this tiny piece of infinity that is within our reach. Or at least the music creates such an illusion, as in truth the universe is still a force beyond our abilities of comprehension.
“Plasma Core” is my favorite part of the disc. This is where darkness and reflection intertwine in the fullest possible way to create a coherent ensemble – drones interact with each other in an almost perfect way, and it really makes the biggest impression when listened to very loud. It is exactly this kind of dark ambient, which should be experienced in such a way. “Spheres” doesn’t lull the listener to sleep, but it fills the entire room where they are located, fills it with darkness and makes that the familiar buildings, trees and streets outside the window disappear, for the benefit of scenery dotted with stars and asteroids, no end in sight.
It’s hard to find any flaws in the solemn, somewhat mournful “Chakras Chant,” where quasi-oriental choirs appear, seemingly of an artificial provenance, while “Cygnus” is built on a basis of keyboard melody. I enjoyed this one a little less, just like “Intro” it’s a weaker part of the album. A decent one, created with respect to the genre. “Spheres” is released by Winter Light from The Netherlands and it seems that we have another label that is worth keeping on our radar in the future, especially since the other albums published under their flag maintain the same level until now. But more on the subject another time.