Phew‘s first album under her name since 2010’s cover album “Five Finger Discount” marks another excellent addition to her near flawless discography. This album takes a much more minimalist, electronic approach than usual and definitely would serve as a great winter soundtrack for Japan (or elsewhere that’s experiencing winter right now).
Opening with the pulsing, repetitive “A New World“, you’re instantly transported into the little world that Phew has created on this album. Her trademark haunting, near monotone vocals (yes, this traditionally is a bad thing, but Phew has made it an art form) are as compelling as ever as the song slowly builds, adding new layers to the dissonance. This use of electronics is quite breathtaking- and certainly a step in a new direction from her more recent work. It’s hard not to be reminded of works such as Radiohead‘s Kid A (for an obvious, mainstream example) as the song progresses, and this is high praise indeed.
Things pick up with the second track, “Where Are You?“, which has a faster, punk-like beat- however, the heavy atmospherics make it moody as hell and the electronic work is still front and foremost. It’s a delightful, intoxicating blend that’s simultaneously hypnotizing and hostile. Constantly you are on edge, but it’s too compelling to stop listening. Instrumental work is amazing here- never too showy, but always tight and organized. All this while avoiding the often stale, hollow sound that electronic music can have.
Other highlights of this album are the batshit insane “Spark” (which will be an absolute delight for fans of 80s YEN Label music), the utterly bizarre, broken English delivered “Chinese Rocks“, the masterful, almost terrifying twists and turns of “See You Again” and the closer “Hamabe no Uta“, which is a sad, beautiful ballad presented in a way that only Phew could.
There are some moments that kill the flow a little in this album, this mainly comes from some of the track lengths being just a *little* bit too long. This may dampen the appeal for people with a little less patience, or those who don’t have time to really sit down and pay attention (a thing that’s getting harder and harder to get time for in this day and age). There’s nothing on here that truly takes you out of the mood though, and Phew has really hit the nail on the head creating something quite singular in sound this year.
Definitely a mood piece album, it’s likely not something you’re gonna want to pick up and listen to every day. However, for those late nights in-front of the computer or times where you are just at home relaxing and want to get truly lost in an album, this is a perfect choice. The ride does have a few parts that do drag on the way, but overall, it’s essential listening if you’re a Phew fan.
8/10. Phew shows that being a veteran of the scene doesn’t mean that you have to lose inspiration. Definitely check this out (if you’re in the mood).