With a notable recent string of high profile collaborations with Aidan Baker and Yellow6, guitarist Eric Quach has been continually refining his abstract take on ambient drone, and on this four track solo cassette, his ability at generating unique, alien noises from the stalwart instrument is clearly on display, as is his skill for composition as well.
The A side opener "Phantom Eye" immediately leads off with Quach's knack for shaping dissonance into beauty, with the shimmering, undulating guitar noise coming across as warm and engaging, rather than harsh and off-putting. Isolated, plucked guitar notes ring away as another layer of guitar eventually pushes things into louder territory with its driving, vacuum cleaner roar. Chugging, compressed riffs eventually supplant the spaciousness before the piece collapses onto itself into silence.
"Phantom Brain" keeps things sounding more like actual guitars, with the slow, melancholy notes reverberating away: a slow, bleak drift through almost completely blackened caverns. Stuttering, mid-ranged notes eventually shine through; all the while the track builds to a dark crescendo before retreating. "Phantom Voltage" goes for a more electronic sound, with the heavily processed ebbs and flows of guitar noise acting as the foundation. On top, guitars that sound like synths soar, channeling a Vangelis-y vibe that leads into a soaring climax.
On the flip side of the tape is a single, sidelong track, "Phantom Pain," that pieces together the elements of the previous pieces into a single long-form work, with some new techniques. Opening slow, with heavily echoed and delayed guitar notes, there is more of a rhythmic throb that emerges, putting it in a different space than the other tracks’ largely textural sounds. Different layers of percussive rattles appear, with the slow addition of guitar sounds leading to a dramatic build in dynamics. About half way through it is almost as if the distortion on every track is cranked up, resulting in a dramatic, intense peak before the track goes back to a more ambient, though aggressive, territory.
TQA is often considered amongst the multitude of "guitar drone" projects, but like the best examples of that sub-genre, it is anything but repetitious or simplistic. Instead Phantom Limbs is a detailed and thorough meditation on a single instrument that does not become stagnant, but spends the perfect amount of time to develop and expand on a theme or sound. This is one of those works that really demand close attention to absorb all the nuance and complexity that lies within.