Litany Reviews: Phil Western's 4am - by Corey Goldberg
Phil Western's 4am, released exclusively online in a gradually diminishing edition of 250 copies, is a record you want to make sure you hear while you have the chance. My first listen was while driving home from work at a time I'm rarely on the road. I pulled onto the highway and the trees opened up on a truly breathtaking sunset. It was one of those skies that makes you wonder if someone had painted it just for you. I saw brand new colors for which I don't even have words. But I don't need the words to describe it. This album is the perfect encapsulation of that moment.
Over the course of the album, Phil journeys through the varied styles that have formed the basis of his previous solo work as well as his collaborations with cEvin Key in Download and PlatEAU. 4am clearly shares some of the grooving DNA of those projects' 2007 masterpieces, Fixer and Kushbush. The sneering funk of Pontiac Pigeon is a stripped down cousin of Download's UHM. If the tastemakers of this world had any taste, the bouncingly glorious Electric Death would be an electro R&B crossover dance floor hit. In addition to the funky elements, 4am shares some of the glitchtastic moments that marked those most recent Download/PlatEAU albums. Ja Bay is an earlier version of Kushbush's Bubba that illustrates the track's breakcoresque origins. Phil's roots are also represented on the album by the stripped down trance of San Julian while the shimmering of The Sign will surely appeal to fans of Effector. Thieves Suffer is, dare I say, Skinny Puppy-esque, with dark synth lines and richly produced percussion. Though Phil had nothing to do with Mythmaker, this could've easily worked as part of that album. Never predictable, the album continually shifts into unexpected sonic territory, like the acoustic guitar and fx-based Where. 4am concludes with a trio of songs that bridge the gap between ambient and shoegaze, wrapping us in their deep textures.
4am travels from the techno arena that marked Phil's earliest recordings through psychedelia to the edge of the current electronic scene and beyond. It grooves, it chills, it trips, it breathes, it stomps, it bubbles, and it whispers. It's yet another fantastic record that these guys have collectively treated us to this year. It's been said before, but 4am proves it once again: it's a great time to be a fan. Do your ears a favor and get a copy of 4am before they're all gone.
4am is available exclusively online. Send $15 through paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov. 7, 2007