Album Review: Phase Out – Cara Neir


The tags on the Bandcamp page for “Phase Out” include the following: “8-bit punk black metal chiptune chiptuneish indie rock lo-fi noise rock pixelcore post-hardcore skramz”. Generally speaking, anytime I see any tag along the lines of 8-bit or chiptune or pixelcore, I move along without bothering to press play. Up until this album, every release I’ve tried with any of these tags has done nothing for me. I won’t say objectively terrible, as I’m a big believer that all musical tastes are valid, but for me, subjectively terrible. On the flip side, I’ve loved everything Cara Neir has done since discovering them in 2013. That also includes backtracking to the beginning of the discography and following them up to this moment. Basically, my thought on seeing this was, “Dammit…if anyone can do it, these two maniacs can!”

My continued trust in the duo of Garry Brents ([almost] all instruments, samples, production, plus lead vocals and lyrics on track three) and Chris Francis ([almost] all lyrics and vocals, synth/beat interludes at the end of tracks 4 and 8) certainly paid off. The duo have always experimented, always followed their own paths, always told their own stories. “Phase Out” is no exception. The description of the theme of the album, as described on the Bandcamp page, starts out: “This album is about us being warped into a 8-bit video game dimension by a sinister alien entity [origins latently go back as far as our first release Part I/Part II].” I recommend you go to the page to read the rest. It’s only a couple of paragraphs, but it lays out a grand adventure with strong references to video gaming, RPGs, and other awesomely nerdy adventure themes. (As a lifelong D&D nerd, I heartily approve).

Musically, “Phase Out” is unhinged. The album flows between the blackened avant-grind present in some form or other on many of the band’s releases, into chiptune, into samples, into jazzy swing grind, into acoustic, into….well, you get the idea. The spastic Cara Neir are all over the place, and yet controlled and directed with purpose. I think that’s what the band does so well. They create absolutely bonkers music that is definitely unhinged, but also fully purposeful, well composed, and which takes the listener on a planned journey. None of it seems unnecessary. 

Cara Neir has proven once again why they are such essential weirdos in our music scene. “Phase Out” is a masterpiece. It’s exciting to see that their vinyl campaign has been fully funded. As I understand it, you can still go pledge on the Bandcamp and get a vinyl, and you should by all means do that.

Rating – 5/5

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