Published on Tuesday, 27 September 2016 14:06
Album title: Human Stasis Habitat
Release date: 3 September 2016
02. Stasis Device
04. Light Curve Wave
06. Spectral Momentum
07. Eye Of Terror
Phelios has been making waves in the dark ambient scene for years. Producing several highly revered and influential albums, before securing a spot on the Malignant Records roster around 2011.
Phelios picked up steam with his self-released debut, Passage, which had a re-release on Loki-Found, years later. On Passage, Phelios set the template for the sort of music he would make over the coming decade. Deep spacey ambient, with a touch of ritual percussion. He would go on to release Images And Spheres and Dimension Zero on the now defunct Eternal Soul Records. Having built a name for himself, his next two albums would be released on the highly revered Malignant Records. Phelios worked with field recordings, captured by False Mirror, and continued with his blend of spacey ambient and tribal drums throughout this period.
As a secondary outlet for his love of deep space, Martin Sturtzer teamed up with Christian Stritzel to form the space ambient duo, Sphäre Sechs. This project also picked up plenty of momentum. Enceladus was recognized and beloved by some of the most influential dark ambient artists in the scene.
Martin wasn't only honing his dark ambient skills, he has also been the mastermind behind the highly successful Phobos Festival in his hometown of Wuppertal, Germany. On Phobos media outlets, you can find magnificent, high-resolution video footage of full sets by the likes of: Bad Sector, Desiderii Marginis, Kammarheit, Inade, Northaunt, raison d'etre, as well as many other vastly influential artists in the dark ambient scene.
This brings us to 2016. Now, Martin seems to be honing his skills once again, refining his sound. Earlier this year, we were presented with a little surprise, the Quadrashape EP. On Quadrashape, Martin relieved his itch for percussion, crafting his first ambient dub techno album. This apparently left him room to focus on specific aspects of his Phelios sound, refining it down to something purer, and more focused than any of his previous solo endeavors.
Phelios moved to Loki-Found, one of the most revered labels in dark ambient. Shortly after, Human Stasis Habitat was released. With this release Martin has shaken up the Phelios formula. His love of space ambient, and the success and high praise of his Sphäre Sechs project, must have led him in the direction of a full-on space ambient album, Phelios style. Human Stasis Habitat has completely dropped the percussion from the equation, leaving us with deep drones and field recordings as the basis of the sound. The album art by Knut Enderlein is a magnificent space inspired image with symbology which I don't know anything about, but I will say is extremely similar to the Inade album covers for The Incarnation Of The Solar Architects and Delineation. Metamorphosis. Permanence.
Phelios has clearly produced his greatest opus to date. Turning his full focus to the space ambient sound, he has honed in on his true and purest talents as a dark ambient artist. It seems that he has declined to use field recordings by False Mirror this time around, with all music credited to himself. Using all his own material has surely made this a more personal experience for Martin. Similar to Sphäre Sechs, Human Stasis Habitat is one of those albums that can be played in its entirety in the background, filling the room with a vast atmosphere, reflecting a dark emptiness come to us from the eternal void of space. Yet, as with any well-honed dark ambient album, when we put on the headphones and listen carefully, there is a deep and intricate set of layers, masterfully woven into one deep droning soundscape.
When reviewing space ambient albums, I find it useless to go into much detail on each individual track. The overall sound of the album is for the most part quite consistent. Each track brings out new layers and emotions, but the totality of Human Stasis Habitat is a subtle and uniform experience. The trick, then, is to make it entertaining and high in replay value. This is where I think many, if not most, space ambient projects fall flat. Human Stasis Habitat passes this test. The album is highly entertaining, while sticking to its formula, declining all gimmicks and leaving us with a purely refined darkness.
I'll take some liberties at this point. Attempting to decipher some underlying meanings and potential plot devices for the album, the first thing that struck me was the album title, Human Stasis Habitat. Which, could be defined as: a place where humans rest in inactivity. Track titles like "Stasis Device", "Tharsis", and "Eye Of Terror" give some hints to further back up this concept. I can imagine, a space ship, far into the future, floating gently through far out galaxies. The human occupants deep in hibernation, awaiting their arrival at some predetermined destination. Yet this slumber is not meant to last. The track "Light Curve Wave" begins with what sounds to me like an explosion. Something has gone wrong on the vessel and the occupants have been awoken from their stasis. The following track, "Tharsis", gives our next hint at the action. If I'm correct, "Tharsis" alludes to the video-game of the same name. Which, states in its description: "Now, millions of miles away from home, a micro-meteoroid storm has left us with a severely damaged ship, two deceased crew, and the sneaking suspicion this trip was doomed from the start." Whether this game and album have any actual story connections, I'm not sure. But the description fits perfectly to my imaginings of what is happening on Human Stasis Habitat. The album reaches its conclusion with "Eye Of Terror", which is by far the darkest, most sinister track on Human Stasis Habitat. This appears to be not only the end of the album, but the end of the journey for this vessel's occupants. They presumably enter some alien territory and are obliterated, or possibly descend into the infinite and terrifying depths of a black hole.
Human Stasis Habitat will not be for everyone. With space ambient, comes a subtlety and even flow that will not be loved by all fans of dark ambient. But, that shouldn't stop anyone from giving it a try, as I believe this is one of the best space ambient albums I've heard. Martin has gone to great lengths with Human Stasis Habitat to keep the story moving, keep the sounds entertaining, and keep the listener embraced in darkness and the infinite mysteries of space. For those who already love space ambient, this will immediately sink into your soul. Human Stasis Habitat is surely the most refined work by Phelios, to date. From album art to production to mastering everything here is top notch. Phelios took off the gloves for this one, laying out an album that is surely going to be an insta-classic in the minds of many veteran listeners and the absolute best starting place for listeners who haven't heard much space ambient before. An all around success. Highly recommended for any dark ambient fan.
Written by: Michael