The Best of Phantasy Sound’s Back Catalogue

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Feb 28, 2020
Esme Bennett
We dive into some of the best tracks from Erol Alkan’s much-loved imprint.

Phantasy Sound spent 13 years building a name for itself within the dance community as a purveyor of ambition within their artistry. Much like his eclectic indie-electro mash-up club night Trash — which hosted the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD Soundsystem in the heart of Soho from 1997 to 2007 — Erol Alkan‘s label Phantasy Sound is the home to a unique blend of genres that’s quite unlike anything else in electronic music.

There are not many other labels that come to mind which could combine the different artistic universes of acts likes Connan Mockasin and Daniel Avery on the same roster quite so gracefully. Hailed by Alkan as an “extension” of the legendary London night, the label does just that and more. Fittingly formed in 2007 when Trash came to its natural end, Alkan has harnessed his years of practice as a producer, audiophile, and creator in the industry with an unwavering eye for idiosyncratic artists that he can guide, while allowing their records to blossom and materialize. A harmonious mix of a fearless attitude and Alkan’s flair for production, the label has harvested a canvas of works from artists who want to breathe new life into dance music. With every release, the swirly typeface of Phantasy Sound on the corner of the album artwork promises an engrossing listen.

Above all, the artists on Phantasy seem to have one thing in common — a fearless application to their craft combined with an unparalleled hunger for dance music, just like Alkan himself. His mastering of club tracks, which all have a distinct under the surface feel that comes through on every release, taps into psychedelia, techno, house, disco, and more while never ceasing to outdo its own flair. The ambition of the label comes through with every record, and each one outwardly defies conventions with palpable energy.

We take a dive into the eclectic box of Alkan’s revered label.

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La Priest – Engine [Phantasy Sound]
Nothing could quite encapsulate the eclectically mixed crazed essence of Phantasy Sound as their very first release in 2007. A firm nod to the electroclash that informed Alkan’s taste in the Trash era, La Priest (AKA Sam Dust) perfectly falls into the indie/alternative threads of Phantasy Sound’s ethos. Combining psychedelic with fizzy electro that explodes and fuses on the floor, laden with samples and fierce in dance-heavy energy, “Engine” is a nu-rave synth-blaster, nostalgic, and awash with a hard-hitting sensibility of a group like Daft-Punk. The record also features a funky tuned-up remix from Alkan, which you could imagine going off at Trash, making it a perfect track to start an exploration into the label.
Daniel Avery – Water Jump [Phantasy Sound]
The elusive Daniel Avery could very well be viewed as one of the most revered talents to emerge from the Phantasy Sound family. It was here where Avery first made his big break as a producer, going from being a regular at Alkan’s Trash night to eventually joining forces on the eclectic Phantasy Sound roster. His early style was cited by critics and fellow artists alike for striking a neat balance between a tightly strung mechanistic sensibility with an ambitiously focused emotive streak. The languid “Water Jump” from the seminal album Drone Logic has become a pocket reference in the world of dance music for its unconventional take on acid house and techno. The title track encompasses a melty and hypnotic riff, merging alongside female vocals and an elusive underworking vibe. Shimmering with Avery’s unassuming production skills, it holds an essential place among Phantasy Sound’s most delectable releases.
Connan Mockasin – Forever Dolphin Love (Erol Alkan Rework) [Phantasy Sound]
On this underground gem, Alkan harnesses his rework skills for New Zealand-born musician and Phantasy outlier, Connan Mockasin. Mockasin’s style carries a lo-fi sensibility, which is hard to pin down. Still, it’s certainly not the dancefloor-ready music we are used to with Phantasy Sound, which is perhaps what makes it so abnormally fitting for a label with such an eclectic nature. Sporting a funky bassline and slow, growing pulse, the track spans 10 minutes. It suitably engrosses the listener in Mockasin’s late-night vocals, infusing a languid techno smoothness into an otherwise indie track. Both progressive and psychedelic, Alkan harnesses the barrage between indie and dance in a beautiful fashion, snipping and pasting to reveal the track’s delicate energy beneath.
Cowboy Rhythm Box – Rattle [Phantasy Sound]
Another early signing to Alkan’s label are the versatile misfits Nathan Gregory Williams and Richard X (AKA Cowboy Rhythm Box). Both prolific DJs and producers, the two came together to combine their mutual appreciation for exotic dance music, and showcase this with creations of their own. A fitting addition to Alkan’s love for acid production, their explosive creation “Rattle,” from their 2014 two-tracker We Got The Box, contains all the necessary components for a dance track. Direct and forward-thinking in its production, it takes you down the garden path of a techno track while keeping you guessing, namely with the disconcerting chanting vocal sample and constant shifting tempos. All in all, the duo triumphs with this delirious rave banger.
Terr – Tale of Devotion [Phantasy Sound]
Brazilian born, Berlin-based producer Terr, the alias of Daniela Caldellas, is one of the newer names on the Phantasy Label. A self-confessed “studio-freak,” the sound of Terr is a futuristic blend of techno and electro with a disco edge. Caldellas and Phantasy go hand in hand as purveyors of complete creative freedom and control when producing, and 2019’s EP, Tale of Devotion, is no exception. As Caldella’s debut on Phantasy Sound, it showcases an insatiable appetite for the dancefloor, with an ecstasy-laden take on vocal-driven synth-pop that pays tribute to the modulations of Giorgio Moroder and Wendy Carlos. Echoing the sensibilities of electroclash that were so applicable to the early Trash days, and which ultimately shaped Phantasy as a label, what comes through is a modern version of the Donna Summer classic “I Feel Love”; spirally and addictive while being hypnotic in all the right places. Like many of Phantasy’s releases, it pays tribute to the electricity and romance of dance music over the past fifty years.
Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve – Diagram [Phantasy Sound]
Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve is the moniker for Richard Norris and Erol Alkan’s project that was formed in the early 2000s. In appreciation for their love of all things psychedelic, they and describing themselves as “part-folk astronauts, part-electronic neo-romancers.” Starting as a project with which to explore leftfield psychedelic rock, the two producers combined their varied tastes to create a tripped-out atmosphere that doesn’t settle in one place. Released on their full-length 2016 album The Soft Bounce, “Diagram Girl” has a distinctively timeless feel to it. Combining electro-dance with a dreamy synth-laden finish, Hannah Peel’s androgynous vocal angelically flows through this glittery release from Phantasy. What stands out is the emotion of the track; it has the intimate factor which is synonymous with the feeling of Phantasy Sound.
Wilted Woman – Lon Lon Night Vision [Phantasy Sound]
Berlin-based Wilted Woman is fairly new on the scene, but her experimental and unforgiving attitude continues to send frequencies through the electro stratosphere. Building her sound on her influences of punk and DIY, the chilled industrial force of her acid-doused sci-fi dance is poignant to Phantasy’s ever-morphing tales of the floor. Her other projects have included debuting on mainly cassette labels and scoring a short film by Domino Castillo, which focuses on post-human existence 500 million years in the future. Her first release on the label is Lon Lon Night Vision, an EP that glows with an impenetrable take on frenzied techno, and features an industrial rework from fellow outlier producer Laurel Halo. The title track is moody yet carries an edge of funk to it, industrial bleeps and swirling synth-work battle each-other with an infectious energy that fully finds its feet and seizes the listener.
Ghost Culture – Perseus [Phantasy Sound]
James Greenwood (AKA Ghost Culture) has been part of the Phantasy Sound project since 2013, with all his releases to date appearing on the label. Music critics have praised Greenwood’s craftily blended style in publications like The Guardian, The Times, and more. His 2017 EP Nucleus highlights his background as a studio engineer; its soulful energy is uncontainable, with broken beats and jumping synth-work. The euphoric track “Perseus” is perfectly off-beat and shimmery, showcasing Greenwood’s love of the modular sounds, while keeping a rare intimacy that’s hard to shake off.
Red Axes – Sipoor [Phantasy Sound]
One of the newer Phantasy Sound releases that would be amiss to forget is that of the Tel-Aviv-based electro-indie duo Red Axes, comprised of Dori Sadovrik and Niv Arzi. The two producers’ wildly eclectic discography — formerly members of post-punk/new wave group Red Cotton — make them fitting additions to the Phantasy Sound collective. Harnessing their abilities in the spectrum of psychedelic dance, Red Axes’ multi-layered sound neatly surpasses the confines of genre. Their debut EP on Phantasy, titled Sipoor, heralds a ‘ripe for dusty desert raves’ sensibility, fusing slow-burning drum patterns and sinister vocal work to create a hybrid disco-techno, immeasurable in intoxication. The title track is suitably trippy, combining a mutated chant-like vocal with mechanical whirs and bleeps, fittingly sourced for a night of leftfield rave and further enforcing the Phantasy name as pioneers of ‘non-genre’ dance.
Erol Alkan & Boyz Noise – Lemonade [Phantasy Sound]
Lastly, we travel back to 2012 for a nostalgic smash that fuses everything great about the Phantasy name. A joint project from German producer Alexander Ridha (AKA Boyz Noise) and Alkan himself, “Lemonade” is injected with infectious energy, which Alkan has copious amounts of. It’s a release that’s frozen in time — a collaboration between two iconic producers that brings light to the floor with a pursuit of distortion and various electro ideas that are pasted together with perfect agency. Further enforcing the label’s palpable appetite for dance, this ambitious collaboration strikes that distinct Phantasy Sound chord in the heart of any listener. Esme Bennett is a freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter.