[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Western’s cleaning out the cupboards on “Dementhol”, which is an interesting experience to partake in. These are a collection of songs which apparently had no where else to go, orphans if you will. Rather than just re-cycle them into what he had planned next, Phil has chosen to give them an arena of their own to play in. These are what you might term experiments, at least they sound that way to me. A series of compositions which find him trying on different styles, toying with unusual sounds… figuring out what works. Unsurprisingly, they all do. Exceedingly well. What else should I have expected? Even more interestingly, there are what appear to be vocals on some of this which isn’t how he generally composes.
Have no doubt, readers and fans, two constants saturate these seven pieces: atmosphere and color. Some of those classic Western grooves show up here and there, the natural feel he brings to this techno-tinged EP is second to none. As always, his material has a brightness to it which no amount of glitches and off-kilter effects can disguise. One of the songs on “Dementhol” puts me right smack in the middle of an open air market. The motion is incredible, just a non-stop barrage of looping beats that pull me further along like a petulant child dragging it’s feet. But there’s no need to dig the heels in, the melodic symmetry envelops the mind and before you know it the song ends.
Would alliteration be the wrong word to use in describing some of this release’s appeal? The glittering lines of synthesis extend far out beyond where most would take them, but this is Phil Western we’re talking about here. He’s never been one for limits, and despite the brevity with which “Dementhol” moves along, you won’t be disappointed with that fact; one can always just play it again.
I find these works have the ability to just grow out of their surroundings and then overrun them, turning what is meant to contain them into more engaging material such as the song ‘Claustrophobia’. It’s setting in, by the way, might want to open a window. Or don’t. This is a first-rate affair of relaxing music, lowering the lights whilst simultaneously bringing a greater awareness to one’s environment.
No, this isn’t Western as we usually find him with his machines sending out confounding signals and it isn’t some kind of magnum opus with regard to his own development musically. “Dementhol” is not to be confused with the other albums he’s done this year. It’s not aggressive, it isn’t more than what it has to be which quite simply is strange and uncompromising. No choruses, no hooks, no frills, no kidding. If you like what he does, this is more of a very good thing and if you’ve not heard him or gloss over his name (Puppy fans, I’m looking at you here) then now might be a wise moment to change all of that because his work really hasn’t been this gentle before.
Were any of these outtakes from other projects? Who knows. They definitely wouldn’t be out of place if he built them up a bit more for use in Plateau, then again, they do tend to jump all over the map. These are restless, yearning compositions. The type which fire the mind and tug at the heart, leaving thoughts unfinished and emotions unsettled. All in the span of a little over half an hour. Such efficiency…
Phil Western – Dementhol