Anthesteria - Phobos 1953 (OST)

[full artwork]

Anthesteria
"Phobos 1953 (OST)"

CD (ltd. 500)
ZHB-XXVI


1. 1953
2. Inside the Bunker [mp3]
3. Psychokinesis [mp3]
4. Mercurial Shower Facility
5. Electric Shadows
6. The Cell
7. Black March [mp3]
8. Shortwave Solitudes *
9. Electric Shadows (live) **

video 1: "Phobos 1953" - introduction [youtube]
video 2: "Phobos 1953" - gameplay [youtube]

* - recorded by Soundediting.ru
** - recorded live on 15.01.2010 in "ESG-21"

total length: 41:02
release date: April 05, 2010
price: €10

* bandcamp.com

The name of Anthesteria is already well-known to the connoisseurs of Russian post-industrial music. This project has released two solo CDs, a collaboration work with Stalnoy Pakt, and a number of tracks on various compilations. After this the project's leader George Beloglazov founded his own multimedia studio Phantomery Interactive and focused his attention on creating computer games with an unconventional author approach.

After releasing the appreciated game "Sublustrum" ("Outcry") filled with the spirit of decadence, steampunk and sombre surrealism, spring 2010 saw the release of a new psychological quest - "Phobos 1953". The action takes place in March 1953 in an abandoned Soviet bunker - a place of strange experiments on the human psyche. The game explores such themes as the limits of mental possibilities, the electronic voice phenomenon, experiments with thought-transference and impact of fear on the human organism.

The game soundtrack, presented on this CD, embodies the project's concept in sound. Imbued with an industrial atmosphere, leisurely soundscapes turn into states of calm estrangement and isolationism. Excursions into the unknown corners of the consciousness bring to its surface old memories and long forgotten yet vaguely familiar images... and laboratorial claustrophobia grows into light melancholia. This musical picture is performed in the trademark style of Anthesteria combining abstract dark ambient, melodic neoclassics and experimental sonic artifacts.

The release is packed in a DVD-size double cardboard sleeve with full-colour cards depicting game locations and fragments of a book about mental suggestions from 1962. Released in cooperation with 7Hz Publishing.



Reviews

For listeners familiar with Georgiy Thieme's previous output under the moniker, the name Anthesteria likely conjures associations with Russian post-industrial. But what makes Phobos 1953 (OST) so striking isn't so much the recording's concept but the understated and leisurely tone of the material, which makes the album's dark ambient content so much more satisfying than had it been presented as a brutal assault. Concerning the concept, the setting is an abandoned Soviet bunker in March 1953 where experiments on the human psyche are being performed on subjects. That the experiments involve explorations into the limits of human psyche, thought-transference, and the resurrection of long-forgotten yet vaguely familiar images naturally invites comparisons on conceptual grounds between Phobos 1953 (OST) and Chris Marker's La jetee.

Both the opening piece, “1953,” and the second, “Inside the Bunker,” exude a carefully measured quota of portent in their atmospheric synth weaves; the second in particular stands out for the confident control Anthesteria brings to the unfolding of its electric piano melodies. There are, however, darker currents operating below the music's semi-serene surface, as “Psychokinesis” makes clear when jagged guitar shards intone against a gloom-laden backdrop. A growing sense of paranoia, claustrophobia, and disorientation creeps in with the advent of the industrial dronescape “Mercurial Shower Facility” and the subsequent “Electric Shadows.” When “Black March” follows the brooding “The Cell,” one is struck not only by how obviously ‘cinematic' the Anthesteria style is but also how much it shares in approach with Angelo Badalamenti; certainly one could easily imagine the elegiac “Black March” as part of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, just like many of the other pieces on Phobos 1953 (OST) (in fact, at his MySpace page, Thieme explicitly expresses interest in producing soundtracks for movies, and the front cover even displays the words 'original soundtrack'). Amidst the rumble and whirr of radio transmissions and disembodied voices, a mournful cello solo injects “Shortwave Solitudes” with a transfusion of humanity and sunlight.

The presentation of the release is also noteworthy, as it comes in a DVD-size double-cardboard sleeve which contains large illustrated post-cards (showing the bunker) and pages from a 1962 book that's apparently about mental suggestions (its text is in Russian). In keeping with the multi-media approach Thieme brings to the Anthesteria project (not only are photographs, illustrations, and texts considered as embellishments for a given release, he even uses ‘aromatization' in certain cases), the album includes two videos. All such details succeed at making the release stand out, certainly much more so than had it been issued as a standard CD free of any conceptual dimension.

Computer game is also part of the release 'Phobos' by Anthesteria, of which a film is on the CD too. Not that it means much to me, but then computer games and me just never worked out - the blurb says something about this taking place in an old Soviet bunker and 'explores such themes as limits of mental possibilities, the electronic voice phenomenon, experiments with thought-transference and impact of fear on the human organism'. The liner notes are all in Russian. Life is never easy I guess. For those who do not speak Russian, there is, in the end, just a CD left with music. And that music is quite nice. Like Noises Of Russia quite atmospheric, but much lighter of tone. Quite gently created with the use of some keyboards, sampling, guitars and occasional shortwave sounds, this is more melodic than Noises Of Russia and not as top heavy. A soundtrack to anything, if one tends to forget the computer game. What is left then is quite a nice CD, which holds hardly any surprise, but one that is crafted with great care.

Phobos 1953 is the soundtrack of a videogame with the same name, it in turn a part of a larger transmedia whole. Its mood has been deliberately made with a retro sound, both from games and other sources, so as to guide a listener’s/player’s thoughts to the feel of a KGB experiment bunker. While it is obviously a soundtrack work, the album catches its intended mood extremely well even without its game present. Most impressively, it has been built as a whole with a lot of subtle nuances in mind, not satisfied to just repeating a standard theme or two. These are songs that evolve.

The definite gem of the album is Psychokinesis, which emulates the divine soundtracks of Solaris and Stalker, done by Eduard Artemyev. Yet all the rest of the material, particularly the buzzing Mercurial Shower Facility, is also of very high quality. The album makes one want to experience the game, too, but is great on its own as well.

I wish other games had mood soundtracks this fine.

Hailing from one of the most beautiful and historical cities on earth (St. Petersburg), this Russian project has been announced as being quite known by the post-industrial fans of their land. The concept of this new album sounds interesting as it invites us to join in an abandoned Soviet Bunker. The action takes place in March 1953 and consists of strange experiments on the human mind. The game soundtrack featured on this CD is meant to embody the project’s concept in sound. Well, I think it’s always quite difficult to transpose a very strong visual concept into music, but it’s often the music creating the vision. One thing is for sure, this album has a very strong cinematographic appeal. Anthesteria composed a real ambient soundtrack. I personally expected a darker exposure in sound although you can find real obscure parts running through the “Phobos 1953”-adventure. I also noticed a rather experimental approach in the use and play of guitar parts (cf. “Psychokinesis”). In the end it more sound mysterious and intriguing. “Black March” is for sure the darkest cut and yet there’s a kind of serene atmosphere running through it. A rather unexpected, but remarkable piece is “Shortwave Solitudes”. I thought to have recognized a cello here, which injected a rather melancholic touch. It sounds like reflecting the kind of solitude from the title. This album is available in a great and artistic cardboard DVD-sleeve. Next to the album we also get a few colored cards depicting game locations and fragments of a book about mental suggestions from 1962. This concept is an interesting experience, but not a masterpiece!

George Belogazlov, the mind behind this album, is also a computer game creator and this album is a soundtrack for a videogame about a soviet bunker theatre of experiments on human psyche. The result is a "classic" post-industrial music that is focused on textures and production rather than innovation or experimentations, just because it's more focused on ambient creation for the game that being a self standing record on his own.

The music has, however, some good points also because it hasn't sonic assaults to easily take the listener's attention: "inside the bunker" has an atmosphere closely related to the package pictures of abandoned offices illuminated by neon. "Mercurial shower facility" relies on a heavy sustain and bell-like noise evoking landscapes of isolations. "Black March" is, perhaps, the best track on the album with slowly moving ethereal synths (3 minutes of beauty). "Shortwave solitudes" features a surprisingly sample of violin.

The packaging is carefully done with few pages, fragments pd a book about mental suggestions, printed in old-style paper unfortunately only in russian and two videos of the video game that gives a more precise view about the whole operation (there's even an old-style tone generator in the gameplay video and pages similar to the one printed in the booklet).

Not the album of the year but a nice record carefully produced.

Adern X, Chain D.L.K.

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