Litany Reviews: Phil Western's Worlds End - by Corey Goldberg
Phil Western has just released his third solo album, taking the form of a 2 CD set entitled World’s End. His last release, 2001’s hidden-classic Dark Features, showed the longtime (and recently ex) member of Download expanding his horizons to include a variety of different styles. World's End foremost strikes as baring a more integrated, less kitchen sink approach. Yet there is still great diversity to be found. World's End is a kaleidoscopic sequence of various moods and atmospheres that takes a largely laid back approach. Don't be misled - a minimalist album this is not. Layers of dissociated voices, acoustic instruments, and synths formulate a dense and ever changing mesh of sound. There is quite a lot going on in these tracks. Eastern flavors hover above the pulsing electronic drive of No More You. These are the types of tracks with hidden corners you can get lost in. Fear not, the album soon moves into moments of the hyper-kinetic rhythmically heavy tracks that characterized albums like Download’s Effector. The break-beat rhythms of The Gangs and Tuesday Jack Died revive the dying corpses of techno and drum and bass while Darkstar has shades of an industrial-dance hit. Land Based is an instant classic, with a frenetic yet subtly evolving electronic beat underpinning a vast environment of sound that integrates some of the progressive leanings of Phil’s previous album. White People and The Truth offer a dub flavor. Tracks like Simpleton utilize a pure, melodic guitar in combination with the electronic settings to great effect. The climactic title track is a powerful blast of space-rock. These songs are cinematic and emotive. They may have electronic roots but they feel like natural creatures that live and breathe.
All of those songs populate the first disc. The second presents a suite of sorts in 29 parts, divided into sections entitled Asleep and Awake. On this disc, Phil travels headlong into soundscape territory. Each track comprises a chapter in an epic journey in sound. If you’re a fan of long, multi-part songs then this entire disc was created for you. Stylistically the music has moments that remind of Aphex Twin’s ambient work, the not-so-ambient Manorexia project of Jim Thirlwell, the final 3 tracks of Doubting Thomas’s The Infidel, or the flagship records of early ambient, all with the spacious sensibility of one of the Legendary Pink Dots' Premonition tracks. Yet this disc avoids the cliched layers of reverbed pads and strings that plague most 'atmospheric' music. Many of these tracks prominently feature delicate guitar and offer a wide variety of sonic pictures. This is music to be played late at night, when no one else is awake and you feel like taking a trip through space.
On this album Phil Western has integrated the at times disparate styles and influences of Dark Features into a cohesive whole and in the process has created a new, unique sound. World's End offers 2 CDs for a total of 130+ minutes of spectacular music, available from The Record Company at www.colourspeaks.com.