Phoria of Brighton England

A voice appears out of a sound: a golden shape, a texture, a mixture of sunlight and sculpture. Music as spectral as this makes you lose yourself in the right way, deep in sound and light.

Imagine the music of Sigur Ros, or James Blake, or Aphex Twin, but travelling somewhere else instead. As you do, pay attention as your eyes and ears adjust, open up, come alive.

Phoria's music is something that its chief writer and producer Trewin Howard understands perfectly, but also doesn't understand. It arrives with him from somewhere fully formed, taking on a cast, a colour, a weight. It does so after the years he has spent with his friends making music; friends that have known each other all their lives, knowing each other better than they know themselves. Phoria starts to make sense when you think of this backbone being in place. Phoria also started making sense, Trewin says, when they stopped trying to be a conventional band, and started to be something else.

Phoria members Trewin, guitarist Jeb, and piano/synth player Ed grew up together in the Salisbury countryside. As kids, they took music lessons together in the same little upstairs room at primary school, performed in its choirs and its scratchy orchestras, and then Trewin got a bass guitar for his 10th birthday and decided these three friends should form a band.

Through their school teens they went from being the nerdy geeks eating their lunch in the library, to the cool kids playing at music nights, before going their separate ways at 18. Trewin went to Dartington Art College to study art, while Jeb and Ed went to university in Southampton to study sociology and music respectively.

They wouldn't be apart long.

At Dartington, Trewin found, gradually and then urgently, that he had an itch he couldn't scratch. He had always loved listening to music very closely, and thinking about the textural worlds it could create. He especially loved music which had an epic quality shimmering in its tiniest details, and realised he had synaesthesia - the ability to see music in colours and forms.

From the time he found a London Philharmonic Orchestra plays ABBA cassette, randomly covered in mud at an airport, to when he, Ed and Jeb used to lie in fields near their houses listening to Muse or The Cooper Temple Clause played loud, to when he first heard Debussy, Ravel, The Beach Boys and Radiohead, to when he first picked apart the structural melodies of Joanna Newsom - Trewin knew, in many dimensions, that music was inspirational. The fact that he could make it on his laptop - on his own to begin with - was bewildering and thrilling.

He made the leap and switched courses to music, and something incredible happened. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he had over 300 compositions. Trewin also realised he didn't have to be a conventional singer, and that the band didn't have to play in a conventional set-up. They could piece music together, organically, when they saw each other.

After university, the three of them were joined by university friend Tim on bass and synth, and Tokyo via Brighton institute of Modern Music drummer Seryn. They moved in together in a house in Brighton and began working on compositions together, fitting part time jobs around meeting up to experiment.

The other band members challenged his ideas, and would help Trewin reshape the material he made. They are his best critics, he says, and it helps that they know what language to use with him when they're finalising these songs. Sometimes words aren't even needed. Sometimes they just know, by shared instinct, what they need to do.

Phoria's songs aren't what you'd call conventional either. Trewin never wanted to be a storyteller; he says he subscribes to the model of saying very little to say a lot. Some have direct inspirations, though, naturally. Red is inspired by a conversation Trewin had with someone about lying to people. Evolve is a big mash-up of ideas about evolution and the future of society. The others, he says, are about love, art, science, the way people touch and change and move each other: sex, mortality, scale, insignificance, morality, pain, joy, fear, obscurity, the surreal, the absurd, and beauty. These lyrics usually come out quite subconciously, a piece at a time whilst recording - starting as loose concepts and rhythmic phonetic ideas and then rapidly honing themselves into grander themes. Spend time with them, and you'll hear worlds budding and blooming within them.

But another world, too, affected the way Phoria are today. At 25, Trewin suddenly, mysteriously, became ill. He started experiencing bewildering sensory symptoms, deafeningly loud tinnitus, and motion sickness entangled with strange optical phenomena; a terrifying experience for anyone, let alone someone who sees their life through their music. Tests were performed for over a year by many different specialists but the cause of these problems remains undiagnosed. Trewin got scared he might never be able to listen to an orchestra again, or ever process sound properly. His mind felt constantly on edge, because his senses were everywhere.

But slowly, over time, Trewin got better, and strangely it's made him a better artist, he says. The illness made him experience things differently, and realise how precious everything is, including his close friendship with Ed, Jeb, Seryn, and Tim and the music they make together. He has been left with some long term auditory effects.

Trewin now hears absolutely everything around him, which can be exhausting, and he has little tolerance for tiring sounds. The upshot of this, though, is that it's actually made Phoria's production and mixes better and it's members more determined to realise their long standing vision.

These days, Phoria are a full multi-sensory experience. Jeb is now a successful video director and film maker, and creates installations and interactive projections for the bands live performances. Their plans to develop their formidable, visceral live show on all fronts are truly exciting.

How strange it is that this group were called Phoria before Trewin's world was recast and reshaped - drawing our attention to the matter of the senses from the start, and how they can conflict with each other.

Phoria have a heart, and a pulse, and a soul behind them always, though: that epic core of friendship played loud, deep in sound and light.

Jude Rogers