Phirnis (Kai Ginkel) is one of the best underground drone artists around. Much of the world got its first taste of the artist with “Cleansing”, a track on the Fields compilation, but he’s been honing his craft for years. Feeding Lions arrives on the heels of dozens of EPs and tracks (and one concept album, Blütezeit) that date all the way back to summer of 2003. A new album is a great way to mark a tenth anniversary, but it’s also proof of hard work and consistency. Ginkel’s progress can be traced on his website, a treasure trove of music that includes a wide selection of free downloads. From this we can glean that Phirnis isn’t in it for the money (although he deserves it); he’s in it for the love of sound and sound possibilities. The compositions range from quiet modulating patterns to glitchy static clouds to mash-ups to blasts of unrelenting noise. We’d love to see all of this material released, but for now, Feeding Lions is a great entry point for new fans.
Eight of these tracks are new, and the ninth is a new version of “Cleansing”, half a minute longer and a notch more intense. This fits the overall approach of the album, which is to plunge the listener into a bath of unstable frequencies. The title implies a feeding frenzy, the cover art a turbulent sea. (And by the way, nice font!) Phirnis has never shied from experimentation, which has kept him ahead of the pack; nor has he confined himself to a singular approach.
The title track eases listeners gently into the album. Forlorn as a survivor adrift on a lonely sea, it begins with the warble of electronic gulls and ends in a cold, remorseless wind. The shipwrecked theme continues throughout the album: in the second track, the wind has become a storm and the ripples a roar. By “The Craving”, the electronics have turned malevolent, buzzing like angry bees above and hungry sharks below; and by “Waves Approaching”, a swarm has amassed. The track sequencing is intentional and wise; this music so clearly bears the weight of its narrative that the descriptive titles are needed only as driftwood. The closing piece, “Islands”, implies only that a destination has been reached; it’s not clear if a body is present, or just a raft.
Congratulations to Phirnis for producing his finest extended work to date, and to Fwonk* for supporting his work. This album may be the breakthrough he deserves. (Richard Allen)