Phil Western – Loved and Loathed


[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

The intrinsically infuriating nature of that beast we call the creative process. When are things as they should be and if it’s all so cut and dried then why do them in the first place; there’s no sense in second guessing your own instincts… or is there?

Rather than just disappearing as he’s wont to do, Phil Western has re-set his musical odometer and put his head down. There are some slight similarities to his ‘4am’ record from several years back but I just keep wondering if it wasn’t just a case of loose ends being tied up; this album has that kind of feel to it, although in true Western style nothing is ever definitively spelled out. You can enjoy ‘Loved and Loathed’ for what it is as well: an unconventional collection of tunes which turn the focus onto the listener rather than merely entertaining.

It seems as though Phil had some trepidation about releasing this one, the title should be a clue and yet he did. I don’t know a lot of musicians who’d be willing to do that anymore in this day and age where no one pays for much of anything and music is viewed as something which just inherently “exists”. For this sort of work to be viewed as spontaneous is offensive beyond belief and yet that’s how it’ll shake down no matter how much vehemence I put into these words I type.

If groove is your thing, there’s plenty of it for you this time around. I could argue he’s been hoarding these pieces a lot longer than he admits but who knows with Western, he does so love to just have things appear on his Bandcamp with little or no warning. His virtuosity with electronics remains as uncompromising as ever it was. There are all manner of devious sounds shifting the narrative. Entire fields of perception sometimes get turned completely inside out as though he grew tired of things and needed to tear everything apart to see what made things tick.

That wondrous, underlying need to experiment randomly for the sake of the result has become quite a rarity in the underground. Keep it safe and don’t disappoint is the message right?

PW won’t do this, if he wants to end a track with stuttering beats and echoes then he will; ‘Loved and Loathed’ is closed out by a gorgeously melodic ear worm named “Oblique 6” that concludes with one lone repetitive tone incessantly jabbing you in the ear. I figured he was just keeping it interesting until I realized: that goddamn sound runs intermittently throughout it and only when all the other layers have been stripped away can it even be made out. Once you’ve heard it, however, it will pop up throughout the entire track no matter how hard you concentrate. But that’s what he does (and has always done), the guy never wavers in his commitment to rattle the equilibrium of his audience and if that doesn’t make sense then keep listening, it eventually will.

Phil WesternLoved and Loathed
Digital 2016

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