Review : Bugs of Phonon (聲子蟲) – Understory

BY Irfan Popish

After 10 years of hiatus, Tainan’s post-rock unit, Bugs of Phonon (聲子蟲) released their latest album “Understory” (真面目). The album consists of eight tracks, half of which are longer than six minutes, the album is perfect in balancing the rhythm section and soundscape arrangements for listeners to feel comfortability from intro to the last second. “Understory” is about building up an unique audio experience their audience have been waiting for a decade..

I lied down and let their music take me on the first listen. The drum dropped on the first track “燃燒的字” (Burning) reminds me of a stoner or doom metal band. But the wall of sound that was built after the first minute of the track was so iconic for me to identify that this is going to be promising post-rock piece.

Playing on the borders between metal and rock, this first track reminds me the dynamic of “Harper Lewis” by Russian Circles, however, Bugs of Phonon’s sound is relatively soft to the ear. The range of expression of their music is wide, with all the details sounding cohesive, they transit in between silence and unquietness. Their bassists and drummer build a steady rhythm section, and the solid crunchy guitar tone adding upon it, eventually leading the listeners stepping into their epic world view..

Intermission from one song to another is the other impressive part of the album. You could hear the aggressiveness from track one to three, Bugs of Phonon slipped the second track “真面目 I” (Fern I) of which was built within a minute by sampling. This 47 seconds track is important in bringing the dark atmosphere of the album. Furthermore, in every two full songs, “真面目” (Fern) is presented three times as a concept that conjunct the album.

The fourth track presents a classic post rock formula that reminds me of Explosions in the Sky and MONO. The guitarist 盧律銘 (Lu Luming) combined a number of instruments to build an emotional narrative. Starting with the gentle trumpet sound as a one-minute intro, this track led the listeners to feel the highest sensation through repetitive guitar strum and the strings section. Bridging by the drum in the half of the track, Bugs of Phonon hit us with the beautiful noise conducted by the guitar-picking technique.

The album is a perfectly balanced combo of presenting an epic concept. After struck by the opening track, classic post-rock formula through the middle of the album’s journey, and ending with a epic “大地的繼承” (Inheritance of the Earth) track to “真面目 III” (Fern III) as the epilogue, I would say “Understory” is what magnificent compositions is about.

As an album consists of long-duration tracks, my ears didn’t feel tired because of their arrangements and harmonics from one track to another. I was listening to “Understory” with my headphones on, closing my eyes and subconsciously bit my lips while banging my head — enjoying the sound waves.

BY Irfan Popish
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