”Written byNick Trethowan
Midway through the year, Phrases found himself trapped between the Covid-regulation borders of Cape Town and Berlin, stranded in Utrecht [a mini-Amsterdam town in the Netherlands]: with a green tent and music gear.
In a busy week last week, Demotape 1 found its way in front of me. As most busy weeks go, one forgets to stop and enjoy the little things but the moment I started playing Kerosene on the stereo, I stepped back and let the journey begin, enjoying every little thing along the way.
A return to experimental rock, that is as brilliant in its rough rawness as it is stark in its comparisons. With the sense of exploration and joviality while hidden in the everyday norm, Phrazes debut is a psychedelic and exciting reminder of how much talent has come to the fore out of COVID quarantines and the weird times that has followed. Phrazes, or Robin Molteno, founder of casualsex.store, South Africa’s first online gallery space for independent artists, was born in Cape Town but lives in Berlin and is back with us in Cape Town for 2 months away from the cold and the snow. With him comes Demotape 1.
Midway through the year, Phrases found himself trapped between the Covid-regulation borders of Cape Town and Berlin, stranded in Utrecht [a mini-Amsterdam town in the Netherlands]: with a green tent and music gear. When faced with deciding between a cramped kitchen-lounge floor or an absurdly expensive Airbnb, a large inflatable mattress and a power line was procured, and a studio tent space was built on the roof of an apartment building.
And from that, a debut that reminds us that sometimes the most important thing about the song you’re listening to is how much you enjoy it.
Wrapping it in a 20m long string of fairy-lights brought from Cape Town, and carefully mapping out his recording gear, Phrazes spent almost a month living in his own private canopy, next to those only of trees and the sky, accessible via a ladder bolted to the outer wall of the building. You can hear this ladder being climbed at the start of ‘tent, alone’. There were strings of days of almost total solitude which kept him working in the tent, along with the light Dutch rain, very audible on the improvised track of tent, alone, recorded with his long-suffering Iphone 8 mic, to send to a friend back home.
And from that, a debut that reminds us that sometimes the most important thing about the song you’re listening to is how much you enjoy it. From the birds, to the patter on the tent to the more intimate vocal samples, the experience is vivid. I close my eyes and hear the rain of Utrecht and this solitary exploration of the soul in ‘roof-tent alone’ or feel the sun on my skin in ‘Kerosene’.
From the birds, to the patter on the tent to the more intimate vocal samples, the experience is vivid.
Organic, timeless and raw, Phrazes has a sense of originality and nostalgia perfectly blended in his tracks. Nostalgia because it puts me in mind of classic A&B sided demo-tapes and the exploration that comes from just pure ideas that are just non-existent in the slick and fine polished world of production we find ourselves in, yet balanced with originality that makes this sonic journey one that passes too quickly. Wavy synths and hypnotic percussion, with these soft lacing vocals and interweaving melodies make for a progression though songs that feels flawless.
As we keep figuring out our way through COVID and all of its effects, it excites the soul knowing that projects like this are taking off the ground. Looking forward to the next project put forward by Phrazes with relish.
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