Review Summary: There’s something missing from Phaeleh’s dubstep.
Unlike other producers who have come to represent the more ambient side of the genre post-Skream/post-DMZ/post-Untrue, it’s much harder to visualise Phaeleh’s music in the same way you can imagine Burial’s enclosed alleyways, Clubroot’s alien worlds or Stumbleine’s cloudless skies. Yet this relative simplicity is probably what has allowed Phaeleh to develop his own style of unbloated songwriting and climb to the top of Bristol’s blossomed dubstep scene. For though Phaeleh’s music doesn’t have the same depth as some producers, he’s still built a signature sound – one of spidery hi-hat beats, sharp strings and dreamy vocals – and one which emphasises core effect over flamboyance.
is just one more step along the path Phaeleh started with 2009’s Within The Emptiness
. Not much has changed sound-wise - the prickly beats, strings, soft vocals and general light atmosphere are all still here and their use remains minimalistic. “Here Comes The Sun” recalls Soundmouse for the whispering vocals she lent on Fallen Light
’s “Afterglow” and “Breathe In Air”, and “Journey”’s strings sound similar to those of “Losing You” and “Lament”. This time however, Phaeleh’s beats have taken more of a backseat, with Tides
’s greater focus on harmony between bass and vocal/synth melody leaving it ever so slightly more spacey than Fallen Light
’s groovier sound. Tracks like “So Far Away” depend more highly on the inclusion of the kind of female vocals normally found on by-the-numbers Youtube remixes, but they benefit from their gentle uplift and hooks without pushing them so far to the front of the music that they ruin the atmosphere. Some tracks take a slightly darker turn, with Jess Mills’s doubled-up vocals melding menacingly with a Clubroot-esque bassline on “Storm” before reverberating melisma fade beneath a gentle synth line. A similar structure on “Whistling in the Dark” with Augustus Ghost’s raspier vocals creates a subtle sense of longing and “Journey”’s striking strings make it a fitting opener. “Never Fade Away”, with its rapid percussion and stingier use of vocal samples, is more Fallen Light
-esque than anything else on here, but its spacey bassline and synths create an intriguing atmosphere, as they do again on “A Different Time”.
is certainly an album of subtle diversity, though it never strays too far from Phaeleh’s mantra of less-is-more. Musical hooks are in the subtleties, whether they be in dreamy vocals, synths, strings or the harmonies between them, and a trademark dubstep tension is there in the joints and spaces of the music with a rumbling bass persisting throughout. It’s another Phaeleh album, another album where he develops his songwriting skills a little more and delivers another bag of delightful tracks to chill out, dance or maybe even sing to. There’s nothing wrong with that, but perhaps for Phaeleh to truly deliver something remarkable that aforementioned ‘something’
, whatever it may be, is yet to be discovered.