Review by Batcheeba
I've been having a drought period when it comes to writing reviews. And I will admit that upon reading the info on Phelios release I released a slight sigh. More drone/dark ambient whatever I thought to myself. I press play and that negative first impression is wiped away within seconds.
This is not the run of the mill material we see so much of these days, this is very different.
Phelios is a one man band orchestrated by Martin Stuertzer, and he has 5 releases, counting this one, to his name. Astral Unity released in 2010 is his first on Malignant.
Astral Unity is unmistakeably dark, but it's an intelligent and mature darkness. I can hear the thought process behind the tracks, making this release stand out in a sea of mindless and meaningless music in this genre. I don't hear references to horror films, I hear references to literature, art, philosophy and existentialism. Where most artists in these genres try to create a dark and hollow atmosphere that does not exist besides their own head, Phelios takes us on a tour of downtown Detroit or Berlin.
This is industrial in the concrete sense of the word, it's tactile and organic. And very real. I can relate. That it always a good sign.
Even though the title of this release may fool you into thinking you're in for an out of body experience, it will not fuck with your aura or anything like that. Phelios' Astral Unity is an extremely grounded form of astral journey. No need to leave your body. Feel the asphalt under your feet as you walk. Phelios has intention and direction. Destination complete.
What stands out with this release is the subtle rhythmic beats, the mesmerizing soundscapes, the composition is best described as a prolonged exhalation. The tracks flow in and out of each other creating a seamless experience for the listener. The tracks are between 5-8 minutes and they could actually be even longer. I applaud Stuertzer for his patience and ability to minimize the sounds and still create such a vast space of aural communication. Combining vague folk elements with music concrete is also very interesting. The old school synth elements with a touch of 70's italian prog thrown into it in the last track Cold Unity, is simply brilliant! I would love more of that! This is my fav track from this release. It stands out, in a good way though.
I have to mention the stunning cover. With its 6 panel digipack with gold foil stamping this is really beautifully executed design. The art is a rather dark take on the trippy covers your would expect from a psy trance band. With it's black, gold and brown images of a star cloud, this is truly stunning and a perfect match for the content.
I am tempted to say this would be a perfect film score, but actually Astral Unity is the perfect music for literature. The soundscape Stuertzer has created with this release actually makes me interested in his previous releases. And that takes a lot for a bitter old woman like my self. Cred for that. I'm impressed.
1 Astral Unity
2 Astral Visions
7 Cloud sector ß
8 Cold unity