Chris Phinney / Harsh Reality at

by Jerry Kranitz

From Aural Innovations #13 (October 2000)

There's a revolution going on in music distribution, or at least in creating opportunities to get one's music heard. And I'm not talking about the Napster styled trading of music. I mean artists voluntarily making their music available on the internet for free streaming and/or download. And noone I've encountered yet has taken advantage of this mechanism to the extent that Chris Phinney has. With a little quick addition I came up with some 7 or so hours of his music available at alone. Phinney has music available at some other sites, but for manageability sake I'm focusing on the pages he's made available at My overview covers five web pages encompassing a number of Phinney's projects. And while the variety heard across these pages is both impressive and mind-boggling, I hope this brief overview provides prospective listeners with a guide to what you might find of interest. Given the click-click ease with which readers can access this music I've kept my descriptions brief. So here's your chance folks! You can be listening while you're reading. The ultimate interactive music experience. Fasten your harnesses, check your breathing apparatuses... we're headed for space and other every imaginable area on the way! Click, click, click... listen, listen, listen...

Planet 0 is a relatively recent project and 5 tracks from the Set the Controls for Galaxy None CD can be heard at Planet 0 is a band and besides Phinney includes Carl Howard, R. Henson, R. Moneymaker, and R. McCracken.

Among my favorite of the Phinney projects I've heard, Planet 0 is characterized by a drugged, droning guitar, bass, drums trio that jams along at a psychedelic valium induced pace, and at various times is embellished, accompanied by, or lead by Phinney and Howard's synthesizers. In some ways it makes me think of early 90's Alien Planetscapes without the horns. This is seriously dark, but totally tripped out spacerock. "Star Cluster Dusters" is a standout track that features a freaky contrast of circus-like dancing and bubbling synths alongside the slow space droning jam of the guitar, bass, and drums. On the one hand, this is not happy spacerock. The music occupies a dark and depressing region of space. But the synths make for an entirely different mood, one that becomes increasingly prominent as the music evolves. And I like how the guitar takes on a more psychedelic quality as the music develops. "Mothership Return" is the other really solid track. The pace picks up a bit as this tune develops with more action from the guitar than we've heard on previous tracks. Nothing mind-blowing... just cool jamming spacerock. I could groove to this all night if it were live at Strange Daze.

Another one of my favorites, Viktimized Karcass, appears to have been one of Phinney's more prolific projects over the years and can be heard at I counted approximately 35 releases in the Harsh Reality catalog! So the four tracks available at the page are clearly only a drop in the bucket. Each is from a different release, and besides Phinney the names Moneymaker and Henson [from Planet 0] are also listed.

I hope to see more tracks added to this page because this is very cool stuff. "Blowed Up Big, So Full" has a groove, though the whole atmosphere is entirely warped. The guitar has a sort of distorted Dobro sound, and the vocals sound like someone with Downs Syndrome having joined a rock band. TI'-MAHHHHH!!! "Diggin' The Pain" is spacerock with a groove! The simple repeated line throughout the song really grabbed me. Moneymaker's guitar is a more lively than on Planet 0 and kicks out cool trippy rockin' licks throughout this 12 minute jam tune. And "Mosquito" is similar to "Diggin' The Pain". It has a boppin' repetitive groove, but this sucker is a total spacerock freakout with bashing and wailing guitars and out of control synths. Loud and intense. You want REAL spacerock? Go listen to this NOW and kiss the Earth goodbye!

Mental Anguish & NoMuzic is the duo of Chris Phinney and Carl Howard and can be heard at There are lots of tracks here, several of which are from the Po Boyz With Gobot War Toys disc reviewed in the Harsh Reality CD reviews section, and features music from their late 1980's collaboration. But there are also some tracks from the more recent Flamingo Road disc. It consists of cool electronic space music, very percussion heavy. "Blissful in Enchantro" is my favorite, being a mucho cosmic space journey with rhythm. A really wild percussion/electronic combo.

Phinney/McGee is another electronic project, this one teaming Phinney with Hal McGee, another long-time homemade musician who also published Electronic Cottage in the 1980's. This is also the same duo that recorded the Ancient Astronauts CD reviewed in the Harsh Reality reviews section. In fact, three of the eight tracks available at this site are from Ancient Astronauts so that's reason enough to dash over and start listening. These tracks can be heard at The rest of the tracks are from various other releases and consist of electronic space soundscape excursions, typically with lots of harsh and mechanical sounds. Cosmic transmissions, space station engine rooms... it's all here. The wildest tracks have got to be "Flowers" and "Along Came A Spider & Scared Her Away". On "Flowers" we hear eerie synths backing samples of a group of children singing made-up songs. The children's voices are increasingly efx'd and mangled as the tune progresses. The synths eventually take on a Phantom Of The Opera quality and the whole thing gets generally disturbing and strange. And "Along Came A Spider" includes more fucked out freaked up voice samples... just go listen. It's good fun.

Mental Anguish is, or course, Chris Phinney and there are LOTS of tracks which can be heard at No surprise there are so many tracks available on this page. I thought there were a lot of Viktimized Karcass releases in the Harsh Reality catalog. I counted about 50 by Mental Anguish, many solo and loads of collaborations. At the site there are two tracks from the Eyeballs Glazed Over CD I reviewed in the Harsh Reality reviews section. There are also numerous other tracks of similar music from other releases as well a diversity of experimental sound pieces.

Three tracks that really grabbed me are from the Beach Blanket Bozos CD which teams Phinney with guitarist Mark Bramhall. "Dats Awreet Mammy" is one of the more interesting takes on old fashioned Delta Blues I've heard in a while and coaxed a chuckle out of me. I remember reading that Tipper Gore listens to this tune when she's getting stoned. "Diggin & A Groovin On Dem Holes In Space" features freakout guitar like we used to hear from OLD OLD Pink Floyd. "Ejakulation & Masturbation" also roots itself in the Blues, being a down & dirty space Blues tune with guitar and synths. I'm curious to hear the rest of this disc. There are also quite a few selections on this page from Phinney's Mile After Mile CD, a collection of mixes that were part of the Homemade Music Mix it Up project. [see interview for further information.] There's loads of variety including freaky studio efx'd dancy and techno tunes. Interesting stuff.

And there you have it. Hopefully by now you've been exploring these pages at or are at least bookmarking them for later listening. Keep in mind that there's a lot of stylistic variety across these pages so don't just stop at one. It'll be worth the extra surfing time.

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