[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
I didn’t much care for this one when I first got it, which is precisely how I like my Phil Western work these days. If it doesn’t challenge me, if it doesn’t force me to broaden my frame of reference then there really is no point in listening. Phil’s style has changed somewhat over these past couple of years, ‘Loved and Loathed’ seemed to be the end of an era for him. That was 2016 and in the time since he’s become more and more confrontational in what he does. These newest tracks don’t play nice and take particular delight in confounding expectations.
When it clicked for me was when I realized I was in fact dealing with two separate releases which had been cunningly fused together by the years 1981 and 2012 punctuating each set of seven pieces. Within this framework of 31 years something took place, Western is documenting some sort of trauma; he’s keeping whatever it is close to the vest which isn’t surprising, this is an artist who communicates at the bare minimum even if one of these fourteen does contain words.
They’re vaguely oblique, refusing to clear anything up.
Western’s beat combinations remain deviously complex as do the electronics employed but he’s not afraid to get a few licks in on that bass guitar he so loves, either. This balance of electronic and acoustic has been his calling card for decades now but it isn’t getting grandiose, neither side takes prominence. Consider “She Devil” if that isn’t obvious enough with it’s brilliant sample placement complimenting Phil’s understated playing as generous layers of synthesis run across the scene imparting bursts of color.
There still isn’t anyone else out there who designs the way he does going from stark minimalism to geometric patterns of sound in a matter of moments; I took a couple years off from covering him to see if anyone else truly would and due to that stunning silence I find myself once more flying the flag of Philth. He is in constant motion, slipping through the nooses of genre, stasis, redundancy and compartmentalization with the greatest of ease. Here’s the proof: this record has now been pushed aside by a new single out of him I haven’t even gotten to but no doubt ties up any loose ends of this period.
These are merely entries in a larger sonic diary, you know, and not just records he’s putting out. Sobering, isn’t it?