Quantum Collisions is the ambient brainchild of Jim Phelps. A longtime resident of Hangzhou, we at DOGS have been aware of Jim’s creative output for some time, either in his guise as a guitarist and singer or from his DJ work. Should you be thinking, ‘Ambient music? That isn’t my thing,’ it’s worth keeping in mind anyone who witnesses Phelps in his more rock’n’roll incarnation might not immediately perceive it to be his bag either. It is our view preconceptions should be abandoned in this rich musical day and age. Music is a broad church and increasingly, and pleasingly, more and more people are willing to embrace variety. Simply put the question should be, is it worth listening to? As far as Quantum Collisions goes we believe the answer is a resounding yes.
Phelps was guided by the desire to ‘do something more relaxing and more experimental‘ in the creation of this work with nothing set in stone regarding song structure or instrumentation. This immediately become apparent on pressing play, soundscapes ‘Drowning In Light’ and ‘Fathom’ shifting moodily and eerily into place, and seeming to occupy their very own space and time. If this sounds a little sinister, there is, for this listener, a feeling of angst permeating the fringes of the sound as a whole, if that’s not too woolly a description, but, at the same time, it’s also somehow very relaxing. Perhaps this is because there is an overriding sensation of time being slowed down.
Phelps explains that his objective was ‘twofold’. As someone who has been playing the ‘guitar and real instruments’ for around ’14 years’, before turning his hand to electronic music ‘for the past 5 years’, he sought to experiment with synthesizers, guitar, or piano, until a ‘timbre or sound tingled the spine or evoked a place or emotion’. He would then allow that to point him in a particular musical direction ‘under the inertia of the music’. It is Phelps’ assertion that this has led to pieces which are ‘kaleidoscopic, lush and expansive while others are uncomfortable and claustrophobic‘. We could agree with this, for example, ‘Inside The Reactor’, possesses a sonic edge which conjures up a sense of alienation or that there is something unknowable lurking in the shadows. This continues with ‘Feeble Child’, where the peaks and troughs envelop the listener, the reverb trails pleasing to the ear but the overall sound niggling away, contributing to a growing sense of unease. Music like this would not be out of place at an art installation or even as part of the soundtrack to a thriller.
Whilst not named by Phelps’ among his key influences, the work of Eno immediately sprung to mind when I first encountered this album. Stylistically there’s room for comparison, though Phelps’ work is arguably more minimalist, but, more than this, it’s the experimental spirit and unabashed musical curiosity that makes this reader recall listening to ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’ for the first time. That’s not a bad place to be.
With ‘Adrift’, despite there still being an undercurrent of slight discomfort in the form of a restless drone, there is a lighter approach which comes as something of a relief regarding what has gone before, and also what sounds like rain, perhaps the influence of Gaia shining through. This is somehow cleansing and refreshing. Listen for yourself to the album in full and you will hopefully agree with me. Where music like this also comes into its own is it offers a route somewhere else, and helps one achieve a different state of mind. A welcome form of escapism. Music as meditation. For a family man that can’t really be going around experimenting with mind altering substances that’s a real godsend!
‘Tannhauser Gate’ is where proceedings come to a head and is really the only track on the album you could say is approaching anything resembling upbeat. Twinkling synth sounds shimmer and sparkle on the outer edges whilst midi strings dominate the foreground, providing orchestral overtones and evoking something a little bit sci-fi. If one can argue there’s something futuristic about Quantum Collisions that engulfs the listener then perhaps this track is the epitome of that. Rounding off what has been an extremely pleasurable listening experience is ‘The Diving Bell’. Fittingly, in terms of the title, it feels, after the heights of the previous track, the listener is, once again, plunging back into murkier depths. A sense of alienation returns. But the underlying disquiet won’t stop me returning to this album. Listening to Quantum Collisions has also made me want to check out more ambient music – a really positive and rewarding musical encounter.Thanks Mr Phelps.
If you’re into ambient music and wanna hear more, check out Quantum Collisions on their official website. Link below. Woof!