I've been collecting Phew's discography for years now. Given how long her career has been, there are relatively few records, all of which are difficult to find and harder to afford. (A fact I find shocking in this era of reissue-mania.) Her discography starts in the late-70s with the archetypical post-punk band, Aunt Sally, then quickly veers off to a wide-ranging solo career—crossing paths with members of Can, Einstürzende Nuebauten, and Boredoms while joining forces with Bill Laswell and Otomo Yoshihide. Luckily, Light Sleep is a new release, by a US label, making it far easier for me to attain. (If only I could have been in NYC to catch her rare live appearance commemorating the occasion…)
On Light Sleep, she's completely solo, singing against her own abrasive, minimal electronics. I've not heard an album so thoroughly channel—or so fully appropriate—Suicide's early cage-rattling. The drum machines sound cheap but pulse with such martial relentlessness it never comes off as campy. Atonal blasts of compressed electricity worthy of Pan Sonic puncture the mix, while Phew's vocals are spoken with anxious urgency. The listening isn't easy but still essential.