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Phew makes album from nothing but her voice

The Japanese punk pioneer turned analogue electronics improvisor pushes her vocal cords to extremes on Voice Hardcore

Japanese musician Phew has just released a new album on her own BeReKeT imprint. Called Voice Hardcore, the music is made entirely out of her own vocals – edited, treated and reworked into a nine track suite.

“This album is an attempt to make a new reverberation that I have never heard before by using only my body,” explains Phew on Facebook. “To test these things, I needed a private environment.” And so Phew found herself working on and recording the whole album in her room with an effector pedal and the same headset mic she uses in her live shows. It was then mixed and mastered by Hiroyuki Nagashima.

“I thought that I could make an album with only voice after I recorded my first solo single “Finale” in 1980,” states Phew, discussing the thought processes behind her new record. “When I dubbed my voice, a completely different world emerged that can not be described in the context of melody, harmony, rhythm, acoustic technology... It made me think that I could draw a picture by voice.

“Of course, I have not been thinking about it for 37 years! Every time I make a recording or play a live gig, that idea has been updated through the erasure method. For example, at one time, my throat rang accidentally during the live show. My body has found a stable way of outputting lower harmonics. Also, through experience I learned that I could train myself to listen to complicated melodies and to high-pitched voices that I could not put out when I started singing.

“It is simply nice to be able to do what I could not do before,” she continues. “This idea has been warming for a long time. But what inspired me directly to start producing this album was that I lost my physical condition during touring this year. I could not carry heavy equipment and it was difficult to set up, so I asked myself whether I could just make music with my own body.”

Phew’s Voice Hardcore is released on 1 November in Japan. It follows her Light Sleep analogue electronics LP, which was released by New York label Mesh-Key earlier this year. That same label also has plans to release the vinyl edition of Voice Hardcore in January 2018.