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Phideaux Xavier has had a few different starts to his career, releasing his debut album in 1992, but not really getting going until 2003 when he released ‘ Fiendish’. One thing he was also doing back then was giving away his CDs free of charge to anyone who asked for them, and when the Covid crisis hit he made the decision to make his digital back catalogue free. By now he is of course well known within the prog scene, having released a number of incredibly important albums within the genre, so this is an act of real generosity. On top of that he has also been trawling through his archives and making them available as well, and this is what we have with ‘All Is Number’. He says “Here is an ambient project comprised of tapes I made when I was in high school 1980. I've cleaned it up a little and made some modifications to the sound files. Metal machine madness, perfect to scare the neighbours! There are no songs on this record.” He's not kidding either. With just an electric guitar, a reel to reel tape recorder and some drums (plus he has now cleaned it up with pro tools) he has created something which is hypnotic, ambient, but also with an edge. The tracks vary in length with one as short as ten minutes, but two are more than 20 while the other two are more than 40. Does it stand up against his current albums? No, of course not: these were recorded 40 years ago when he was still at school, long before he learned what he wanted to do with his music and while he was still heavily experimental. But as a piece of archive recording it is incredibly interesting, with more than a hint of krautrock about it. This is not music which is going to appeal to those who want it sat firmly in the mainstream, but for those of us who like to be a little more adventurous and challenge ourselves in our listening habits. With the tracks being so long I did find that when playing on headphones that time seems to stand still as all there is left in the world is the drone, the swirling change, and the images created in my mind. This may not be the Phideaux we have become used to, but a very different, darker and avant garde version, and it is strange to think he was creating music like this when he was so young, especially given the lack of facilities to undertake home recordings like this back then. Intriguing.
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