In an age of instant widespread communication, there a few surprises. Play “Harmonic” from start to finish and describe what you hear, with no preconceptions. The music is reminiscent of that created in a diminutive recording studio, on vintage equipment using little or no trickery with no obvious pretensions. The tracks are unrefined, almost improvisational in construct, but display craftsmanship and practical skill that push them up above the more pedestrian.
“Vitriolize” begins brooding, dark and menacing before a pounding rhythm and blistering guitar alter the mood significantly. There is much despondency and dissonances here to unease the listener, yet provoke the interest of those willing to pay attention. The drums are not extravagant or overstated and are probably the result of years of experience. “Held in Light” has a gothic feel that comes leftfield so early in the album, but which features vocal that has the strength to bridge the gap between the ethereal and the aggression. “Dome” is a perfect marrying together of styles which have characterised the album so far, there are passages of controlled hostility and unearthly despondency in perfect balance.
At this point in the albums running order the listener may be forgiven for believing that their appliance has now switched to play an early album by the Grateful Dead. “Killion” and “Mezzanine” are jazz rock workouts that are marvellous to hear within the context of this album, and are a veritable shrug that the producers of the album are indifferent to any preconceptions as to what the running order should be expected to be. “Meditation” follows a similar theme with leanings toward jazz chord progressions and improvisational passages, but heavily infused with the brutality of punk.
“Way Down” and the title track “Harmonic” are in effect ambient soundscapes which, rather than sit awkwardly next to, complement the overall attitude the album exhibits. These alien landscapes blend magnificently into “Exuberance” which, again, would not seem out of place on an album by John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. There is one last reminder that the purveyors of this collection of disparate tunes may be associated with the hardcore scene in“Sex Amp”, before “Amoniac” pushes the barriers back still further with a funky, lilting pulse over which soars spoken word vocal which appears to have originated from another era of music production altogether. “Harmonic” has a subtle array of styles and influences, some which may sit awkwardly for some, but taken as a cohesive piece, there is a feeling of being at ease with each approach.
So, who are Philm? It may surprise the reader to know, at the time of writing, that it is the product of Slayer and Fantômas drummer Dave Lombardo, Garry Nestler of Civil Defiance and Pancho Tomaselli. “Harmonic” has impudence and attitude, but those are qualities that should be applauded and recognised, and hopefully, emulated by others.