Phillip Klampe is a veteran of the dark ambient scene, self-releasing his first cassettes in the mid-1990s. His nom de ambient is Homogenized Terrestrials, which is a nod to his similarly long career as a grocery store dairy department manager.
You could spend days listening to his music, literally. There are 47 releases cataloged on his Bandcamp web page, and I think there are many early cassette works he has yet to upload. His life is seemingly divided into working and making music, with occasional pauses to eat and sleep.
I last saw Phil in real life when he did an in-store performance at The Record Collector (Kirk Walther, RIP, was a long-time friend and fan). Previously, I’d played a show with him around 1998. In both cases, he showed up with conventional gear — in 1998 a Roland JV1080, and more recently Electron sample playback gear.
These are machines that are designed to be easy for a traditional musician to make traditional pop music (or techno, or soundtracks). Phil completely subverts their normal workflow. He finds the flakey edges of their sound engines, the things normally avoided by conventional musicians, and makes them central to his creative process.
Given that the Homogenized Terrestrials oeuvre is oceanic, it’s difficult to get your arms around. But you can start anywhere, and on its own terms, Suspension is really strong. “Fum Organi” is perhaps the most focused track, built on a steady rhythm of unidentifiable percussion over which he layered timestretched vocals and dark sustained chords. Lest you get too excited about conventional musical elements, it is followed by “Visitors,” which sounds as though you’re in a roadside ditch at night surrounded by busy wildlife, hearing the occasional truck pass by. But it’s completely synthesized and abstract, not literally the sound of lying in a ditch. It might actually be comprised by samples of familiar sounds, but they’re stretched and twisted into unrecognizable clicks and twittering noises.
Most of the tracks on Suspension are relatively short by ambient standards, some less than three minutes. Klampe knows precisely how long each musical idea needs to be developed, and you never get stuck (as with many ambient releases) with 20 minutes of repetition with minor tweaks.
Music this willfully vague and abstract can be a heavy lift for listeners more used to the prescriptive program of rock or hip hop or R&B. But it is worthwhile, even crucial to give this music a chance. Living within the billowing clouds of vague, obscured symphonic chords and the dislocated clanks and muttering Klampe has assembled does something to your perception of sound. It will change you.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 238.