PHEW today shares “Days Nights,” the latest taste of what to expect from her forthcoming album, New Decade, out October 22 via Mute on CD and digital platforms. A limited-edition clear vinyl format will follow on November 5.
Listen to the hypnagogic pulsing and shifting electronics of “Days Nights” here. The track is accompanied by an atmospheric and disorienting video directed by Masayuki Shioda whose photography appears on the cover of the album.
MORE ABOUT PHEW
Rising to prominence with the art-punk group Aunt Sally before her first solo release in 1981 – which was recorded at Conny Plank’s studio in Cologne with Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit – New Decade is her first for Mute since 1992’s Our Likeness. This latest phase of her career – first heard on the Japan-only New World (2015) – has delivered the purest distillation of Phew’s artistic voice, even as she’s diligently stripped the music of sentiment. “That’s why I’m grateful I make electronic music,” she says. “If I was just singing, it would end up being about expressing my emotions, but with synthesizers you have to think really logically. I’m constantly busy, so I don’t have time for things like that!”
Already well accustomed to working in isolation at home, keeping her voice down in order not to annoy the neighbors, New Decade is a stark and haunted album, populated by voices that intone empty pleasantries in English and Japanese or manifest as wordless shrieks and groans against a backdrop of fractured, dubbed-out electronics.
Phew explains that there’s a loose concept running through the album relating to the perception of time. “During the ’80s, and up until the ’90s, things progressed along a line from past to present to future, but I think that’s changed, especially since the start of the 21st century. Personally speaking, I’ve stopped being able to see a future that extends from the present.”
This is reflected in the unplaceable character of her current work. It’s not deliberately retro in the manner of many analog synth revivalists, nor does Phew waste time trying to catch up with the latest trends. It’s music out of time, resonating to its own peculiar frequency.
The album is uneasy listening, yet it’s far from off-putting. For all the emotional distance of Phew’s music, it’s the work of a survivor: someone who’s seen how grim things can get and chosen to carry on.