Unlike their last release – the sprawling and epic and thoroughly noisy Exhaustion with Kris Wanders – Exhaustion’s ‘Phased Out’ is a much more concise and focussed affair. In fact, on this new release they’ve almost completely moved away from the improvisational madness of …with Kris Wanders into more song-based territory, with ‘Phased Out’ even sporting that staple of contemporary music: the remix. However, don’t think that this is a criticism or a negative; changing directions is a necessity in this attention deficient age, and Phased Out is every bit as good and as ferocious as their previous releases. And to be brutally honest, this tighter focus is actually a bit of a relief, and works to Exhaustion’s benefit – the shorter song lengths combined with the more reined-in approach means that we don’t suffer from a kind-of aural overload and hence find ourselves exhausted (boom-tish).
The two tracks that make up the original component of this EP – ‘Phased Out’ and ‘Colleague’ – feel like two halves of a whole, with the bare second of silence between them almost serving as a chance to catch your breath before the din kicks back in. Tribal-esque drums, hypnotically repetitive bass and guitar lines, half-spoken vocals that are almost buried in the mix, sheets of synthetic sound and squalls of feedback that float on top of the seemingly unending groove – these are the defining factors of Phased Out, and make it seem like a homage to Krautrock, Space Rock, Psy-Rock and everything in between.
On the other hand (and to be brutally honest once again), the remixes are a little bit daggy and seem a little bit superfluous. Mikey Young’s remix of ‘Phased Out’ strips the urgency from the original through the addition of a two-step synthesised bass-line and an abundance of electronic strings and sweeps, with the end result reminding me more of a New Romantic plodder from the 1980s than a genuine reinterpretation of Exhaustion’s own brand of craziness. Rites Wild’s remix of ‘Colleague’ is somewhat better, the delay-drenched vocals and slower tempo and droning synths and occasional moments of deconstructionist disintegration adding a sense of menace that truly seems fitting. But even then, the energy that makes Exhaustion so interesting and so unique is missing. These are, however, minor complaints – ‘Phased Out’ is worth the ticket price purely for the first two tracks: contemporary Kraut-Space-Psy-Rock has rarely sound so good.
(Originally published on Cyclic Defrost, 13/1/2016)