Review: Phase Fatale Delves Into The Complexity Of The Human Psyche In ‘Scanning Backwards’

Phase Fatale | Scanning Backwards | Ostgut Ton

Release Date: 24 January, 2020

Hayden Payne, otherwise known under his pseudonym Phase Fatale, is a producer who explicitly intertwines the stunning depth of the human experience into his sound. The Berlin-based artist spins a deeply personal perspective into his sets, with the brooding feel of post-punk looming amongst a raw techno, an industrial character; carefully constructed atmospheres floating as phantoms alongside moody drones and the icicle chill of cold-wave influences, building narratives through structured, gritty electronics.

WIth a debut release on Hospital Productions, and later featuring on labels such as Ostgut Ton and Jealous God – Phase Fatale has residencies at both the iconic Berghain in Berlin and Georgia’s Khidi – along with his own imprint, BITE. Phase Fatale’s skill with sound design allows for his conceptual approach to his releases to shine through; in ‘Scanning Backwards’ he explores the psychology of identity – delving into the influences that shape our intimate navigation of this world, the ritualistic practices we consistently consume – the ‘programming’ of our character, our memories.

Taking inspiration from real-world experiments such as MK-Ultra – the very real militaristic experiments conducted during the Cold War era by the CIA, that attempted techniques to make human mind control a reality – Phase Fatale takes on the idea of music as a ‘controller’, and more personally drawing from his experience as part of the queer community – and how music drives us.

As the album opener, ‘Velvet Imprints’ engineers a biting concrete abrasion; a raw grit that sets the tone for the rest of the album – rough distortion crawling beneath the skin as an introduction. A full billowing beat booms in an industrial, shadowy euphoria – techno gloom in an anxious, energetic progression; invoking influences of Nine Inch Nails, imbued with the adrenaline-rush track of a final boss battle in a video game – the protagonist’s strength and resolve building in a forceful determination.

Binding By Oath’ lurks through the murky, rusted-metal corridors of an abandoned spacecraft; a bubbling cyber synth focused in it’s driven repetition, twisting and turning in an extraterrestrial darkness. The nervous tone enforces a foreboding atmosphere, the danger of alien creatures growling in the shadows, scientific experiments gone wrong – the rhythmic percussion beating in an uneasy science-fiction dystopia.

During The Freezing Process’ opens with the crawling malevolence of a futuristic world, a nervous, yet slowing heartbeat; as per the track’s title, imagery immediately springs to mind of scientists conducting devious experiments in a laboratory filled with incongruous, sterile equipment. Sawtooth howls craft a cryogenic sleep; as if aiding in the preservation of once thriving but now forgotten beings, extracting memories as weapons.

The murmuring pulses of ‘De-Patterning’ creep ominously as moody algorithms, lines of code droning in a somber technological realm; oscillating in repetition as the layered electronic timbres build a cyberpunk atmosphere. Focused and lucid, the textural construction repents as being torn apart and put back together over and over – an artificial intelligence creating, only to break apart and restructure – out-of-this-world, sinister experimentation fading into a robotic oblivion.

The brooding nature of ‘Scanning Backwards‘ perfectly captures the concept put forward by the producer; the dystopian atmosphere and moody, ominous beats building a realm that delves deeply within the human psyche – an overwhelming complexity that permeates our very existence, with the ability to be programmed and re-programmed performing a perpetual state of transformation.

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Rating: 8 / 10

Feature Image: Phase Fatale by Cristina Cipriani