Phÿcus Megachannel Extraterrestrial Array (M.E.T.A.)

Montreal noise-mongers Phÿcus have enthusiastically embraced the DIY CD-R revolution, a natural progression from their origins as one of the most prolific groups of the underground industrial/experimental cassette scene in the late '80s and early '90s. Both M.E.T.A. and Only Fire and Death have been pressed as limited edition CD-R's (99 copies), allowing Phÿcus to document their latest sonic experiments, release them quickly and cheaply, and move on, in true Neoist fashion. Of the two albums M.E.T.A. is the more listenable, a collection of five recent studio recordings. The current incarnation of Phÿcus, spearheaded as ever by "master of chaomonies" Brian Damage, along with a rotating cast of conspirators, has moved away from their previous sound of heavy industrial rhythms, chanted slogans and electronic noise into more subtle territory. M.E.T.A. is a dark ambient, sinister album that sounds like a soundtrack to a lost '70s sci-fi/horror B-movie, and one that would give you nightmares. Ominous, grinding mechanical rhythms slowly build up under pulsing analogue synth drones and loops, punctuated by distorted vocals and apocalyptic noise. A truly unsettling offering that is nevertheless engaging, reminiscent of some of Numb's bleak instrumental soundscapes. Only Fire and Death is difficult listening at best, a collection of lo-fi live recordings documenting Phÿcus's tenth anniversary and X tours. A self-released bootleg, Only Fire and Death captures the brutal clamour, relentless noise and chaos that Phÿcus are renowned for with recordings of performances in Toronto and Ottawa. I think you had to be there. (Total Zero)