Joana Aderi - vocals, keyboards, electronics
Joy Frempong - vocals, keyboards, electronics
John Edwards - double bass
Daniel Sailer - double bass, fx
Fredy Studer - drums, percussion
Phall Fatale's line-up, for all its symmetry, is odd: two vocalists, two double bassists and a drummer. One of the singers is Joana Aderi, who also makes experimental electronica as Eiko; joining her is Joy Frempong, known for her work as one half of OY (Crammed Discs). One bassist is Daniel Sailer, previously known for performing both contemporary classical music and hardcore noise (O’Haldenramm, Krakatau, Pol, Frachter). The other is John Edwards – quite a coup, given that he has worked with such avant-garde luminaries as Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann and Wadada Leo Smith, as well as performing the songs of Robert Wyatt in Comicoperando. Completing the group is drummer and driving force Fredy Studer (Joe Henderson, Miroslav Vitous, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, John Abercrombie, John Zorn, Fred Frith). Something about Studer’s playing, which runs the gamut from full-blown rock-out to subtly textural, reflects that of the group as a whole, and he is both foundation and ornament to their unique sound. Key to weaving together all these threads is producer Roli Mosimann, an early member of Swans who has also worked with JG Thirlwell, Young Gods, New Order, The The and Faith No More – and described by Studer as the sixth member of the band.
Phall Fatale formed 2008, their name intended to refer to both a male femme fatale and the notoriously hot curry. The unusual line-up was an accident Studer connected with the two vocalists first, and they held auditions for a bassist, intending to add a guitarist at a later stage. Unable to choose between Sailer and Edwards, they decided to keep both – and to ditch the guitarist. Double double bass is unusual, though not unprecedented in free jazz. It works here because the players are so different, Sailer often playing electric double bass and making use of effects pedals, while Edwards, perhaps the most physical player of double bass on the planet, is able to conjure equally unexpected sounds from his acoustic instrument. Crucially, both can play grooves too: that interest in both song and improvisation was the fundamental to Studer’s vision.
How to describe their music? Contemporary post-punk? Avant pop? Leftfield vocal jazz, of a kind that features no brass – or even, in the commonly understood sense, solos? A kind of alt R’n’B that makes alt R’n’B sound like Rihanna? The band themselves see the record as contemporary pop – but a kind of pop that draws heavily on improvisation, and which is interspersed with ‘hardcore packets of groove and spoken word’.
They have released one previous album, 2012’s Charcoal on Fire. The follow up 'Moonlit Bang Bang' is the first on Slowfoot and is due for release on 15th January 2016.