If Voices From The Lake conjured the organic life forms of a subaquatic world, Phobos imagines an altogether different environment. Life here is reduced to steel and stone, a lunar landscape of ambient devastation. For almost an hour, there are few recognisable landmarks; no melodies, no beats. Instead, you have a section like "Travelling On Kepler Dorsum," where the arms of tiny robots skitter across the bare rock. The sounds of this world are totally alien—everything is unfamiliar, uncomfortable. There is no centre, no guiding light. A pervasive menace lingers, the dark side of Tillieci's imagination.
Phobos is loosely based on the moon from which it takes its name, which is drawing closer to Mars every year. Destruction for both approaches one metre at a time. It's this inevitable climax that brings Phobos to its subtly ecstatic conclusion, with the synths fighting their way through "Life On Laputa Regio" before the beautiful bass and coalescing half-melodies of "The Secret Revealed" finish the ruin of heavenly bodies. Rather than rage and violence, Tillieci's apocalyptic moment is marked by the warm peace of acceptance, a natural and expected end.
Tillieci's incredible ear for detail is what defines Phobos, and what keeps such a minimal record so consistently interesting. Listening to him play with density and texture, bringing elements into the light and then shrouding them in darkness again, makes every spin of the record unique. Nothing is unclear or out of place. The record builds through each section into one long piece, growing in depth and intensity. As with Voices From The Lake, this is an album to be absorbed in a single sitting—a rare example of the CD being perhaps a better option than the vinyl, if only so you don't have to get up to change sides. Phobos is an intensely focused and immaculately constructed record that reaches beyond this world in search of a new perspective on our earthly experience. The blank night sky is a wonderful vacuum for projection and, like all negative space, we yearn to fill it up, with stories, with colour, with sound—to see ourselves reflected. Like the best science fiction, Phobos gives us all the sky we need.