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Jarl - Phonophobia [Zoharum - 2021]

Jarl is the solo project of the massively prolific Swede, Erik Jarl. He also remains a member of industrial/power electronics legends IRM (he is a founding member alongside Martin Bladh) and is a former member of the bands Skin Area, Sharon’s Last Party and Kaiten. Phonophobia is the latest in a long line of solo releases and is deemed a continuation of themes introduced in his previous release, Hyperacusis, which was an attempt to explore this noise-sensitive condition through sound, whereas Phonophobia takes things one step further and looks at an ailment that manifests as a fear of sound. 

The album is divided into three separate sections, each representative of the scale of impact that psychological treatments can have on the condition by recreating the sounds a sufferer of the condition will experience. Jarl’s own description is that the space is filled with high-intensity sound waves, stimulating the listener to active reception and strongly influencing his psyche (at the same time). He continues on by suggesting that the sensation of rising is prevalent throughout. After which, there is absolute silence, which acts as a counterpoint to the music that continues to resound in the head for some time afterwards. This is a good description and one that I wanted to include as I think it’s a good overall analysis of the music. However, I want to dig a little bit deeper into the three twenty-minute plus pieces that make up Phonophobia.

"Scale 1" gets things underway, building in intensity from an opening, hypnotic drone to full-on, high-intensity psychedelic drone experience before finally melting away again in preparation for the second wave. It’s a twenty-five-minute drone trip featuring electronic squeals and squeaks that may seem unsettling at times but quickly develops the idea that tranquillity exists in the eye of the storm. "Scale 2" takes a little longer to kick in, after some fairly ambient beginnings, the drones begin to build as the song takes shape. There is a constant uncomfortable ringing that lingers throughout making this an uncomfortable but rewarding listen before once again fading away in the song’s latter stages. "Scale 3" is the final section of the album, once again we are treated to another twenty plus minute drone piece that mimics the effects of the condition. Not quite so oppressively intense as the previous tracks, it nevertheless builds into a wall of drone noise with some electronic squeals before once again fading away into silence. 

Phonophobia is an interesting and ultimately worthwhile sonic experience that can work to provide an intense listening experience but is equally enjoyable as background listening. This is a rare quality indeed, as most intense music does not lend itself well to casual listening, as well as having the desired impact when taken in the way it was meant to be. The packaging from Zoharum is once again very nice, as the CD is released in a cool digipak design. 

Overall, this is a great sonic experience, one in which, fans of ambient drones and psychedelic noise should find a lot to like.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Darren Charles
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