Phil Western – Longform


[Reviewed by: Peter Marks]

I’ve stewed on this one for a while now, spending entire days playing it back to front. Forwards and backwards, altering the track listing… loud and then quiet. What I’ve come away with is a sense of euphoria, something I hadn’t been expecting from Western’s latest creation. To be sure, he’s gone outside the safe and established norms of electronic music before but it hasn’t been so immense in scope or detail previously. These last couple of years have seen him hitting the release schedule like a fiend and some of you may be wondering, what’s he got in the bag this time. With so many releases out has he begun to repeat himself or has that well run dry?

He’s barely begun to scratch the surface.

Vocals, guitars, heavy dub bass lines, exquisitely detailed sound design and riveting harmonies. All of this and more is up for grabs on ‘Longform’. We fans have truly been spoiled since his re-emergence in 2012 and his bandcamp has been more than generous with outtakes, demos and even dusted off work which pre-dates his solo debut ‘The Escapist’. What has also been happening is that Phil has been honing his song writing down to a finely precise point. He has reached the point where individual sounds are now so in-sync with what’s going on around them that the flow is seamless. The transitions from one part of a song like “Big Bear” are absolutely explosive.

There are even a couple of morsels thrown in from his digital output. Namely: “Dementhol”, “Morasmile”, “7 Steps” and a remix of “Voices Telling Me To Go” from the ‘Dementhol’, ‘Morasmile’ and ‘Melodium’ releases respectively. Surely this will prove enticement enough to get people hankering to go and purchase them. But even if that doesn’t do the trick, the new pieces on here definitely sell ‘Longform’ as an album in it’s own right. But there’s something more to this one than just synthetic sorcery executed at peak potency.

Phil’s album is also an acknowledgement that the days of the compact disc are well and truly about over. ‘Longform’ is nearly 90 minutes long and clearly was arranged and designed exclusively for digital and vinyl release. Now I know what early adopters most fans of electronic music are but for someone like myself who owns thousands of the damn things this is a significant event. I’m not sorry to see them go. Western demonstrates yet again how aware of the times he is by doing this. You can be assured that in the coming days you’re going to witness more of this. Any backroom twenty-something “producer” could go digital, I’m sure, but for a guy who outfits his songs with such loving attention to detail this was a big step.

But back to the album at hand. There are daytime records and then there are those which don’t really come out to play until the sun goes down and what I’m hearing is decidedly in the latter category. So much variety in tone and tempo! His more direct compositions have a way of auguring into one’s head and staying there for hours if not days at a time. He sings on some of this, on other tracks the groove becomes what the entire song is about while elsewhere you find pure ambient bliss. Come play with us, truly. But make sure to pack a lunch because you’re going to be there for a while. As I write this, I’ve gotten lost in the woods yet again and interestingly enough I don’t mind at all.

I’m almost sorry I have to stop writing about ‘Longform’ because it is such a remarkable milestone for this guy. Yeah, sure, he’s been around for a while but unlike most of those who have he doesn’t just linger on regurgitating what you’ve heard before in some new and cynical iteration. This one creates because he simply must and if that means he drops off for years at a time to maintain integrity in his music then that’s what he’ll do. I just hope he knows how appreciative we are that he keeps coming back.

Phil WesternLongform
Rustblade Records, rbllp003
LP, Digital 2014

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