Carsten Aermes has been steady but not exactly profile-raising prolific when recording as phon.o – he’s produced a run of almost annual EPs since 2000 on labels that are certainly eye-catching – 50Weapons, Tectonic, Bpitch Control and Shitkatapult – but only three albums, which are normally the releases that get more coverage from reviewers and his last full-length came out some six years ago. He doesn’t just stick in the one genre either, and has dipped his toe in a multitude of styles from house to dubstep to glitch-hop which serves to muddy the waters further – you never quite know what you’re going to get when you pick up a phon.o release. Whatever style, he’s all about playing to strengths though, and the shorter format is where he is best, which is arguably the case with many electronic producers – three tracks, twenty minutes and you’re done.
Aermes’ work is normally beat driven, but his new self-released EP, Slow As Fog, shows a change of pace. It’s a murky, hazy ambient excursion full of intrigue and atmosphere – the combination of the EP’s title and the music put me in mind of city streets at night, shrouded in river fog where plots are hatched and deeds are done. It brings to mind Wim Wenders’ Hammett, a film that relies heavily on the studio-bound mist that hangs over everything, if that helps set the scene.
There’s a scuzzy sheen to the opening “Leaving Khidi” and a sonorous pulse that ramps up a feeling of unease before a clattering beat kicks in about half-way through, which serves to puncture the tension somewhat. It’s a beat that reappears on the closing “I Am Tired So How Are You”; in both cases the drums have a tendency to dominate in the mix which does fly in the face of producing the “noisy ambient drone” stated on the EP’s description.
However, there is cause for celebration as the remaining track “Snapchat Soliloquy” jettisons the elements that hold back the other two tracks – it holds off the drums. The result is a beautifully realised ambient piece, full of sibilant atmosphere and a gradually evolving bed of drones and pulses. It’s worth the price of admission alone, and suggests Aermes should maybe considering working on a totally drum-free EP next – it might that ambient music is where he truly belongs. (Jeremy Bye)