May 2012 23

Phil Western - LaborandumPhil Western
Category: Electronica
Album: Laborandum
Stars: 3.5
Blurb: Psychedelic ambience meshes with danceable rhythms in this collection of selected tracks from one of today’s most revered electronic pioneers.


Phil Western has been a renowned figure in electronic music for 20 years. Based in Vancouver, he is perhaps best known for his association with cEvin Key in Download and platEAU, all the while maintaining a lower – though no less prolific – profile with his solo work, going under the monikers of Philth and Kone. He’s also worked in numerous collaborative projects such as Beehatch with Mark Spybey and Frozen Rabbit with Tim Hill, bringing his sense of ambient melody and progressively minded rhythms into any musical outlet. Signing to Rustblade in early 2012, Western now releases Laborandum, a collection of works from past albums chockfull of his familiar style.

A well known devotee of the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer, opening track “303” is appropriately titled as Western’s signature sound pulses right out the gate. With a wonderfully catchy beat and waves of ambient oscillations and manipulated samples, the track prepares the listener perfectly for what Laborandum has in store. “Ke Bop Bop” then begins with a stuttering sample akin to switching channels on an old radio, creating a rhythmic backdrop that complements the catchy bass line that permeates throughout the track, while “The Sign” flutters by with psychedelic atmosphere and energy, a romp of ghostly voices amid a seemingly monotonous bass and beat. Similarly, “Shoehorn” struts confidently with a repetitious ascending bass sequence as wisps of swirling pads fade in and out in lieu of melody, the subtly offbeat rhythmic display making for a sublime bit of progressive electronica. But just in case you start to wonder if Western is incapable of playing in a different tempo, “Angels” comes in slowly with a brilliant display of atmospheric trip-hop, a hollow, gated synth stuttering beneath sirens of synthetic and sampled melody sounding like a cross between Curve and Morcheeba. Similarly, “7 Years” closes the album with a minor breakbeat and ethnic string sounds underscoring wobbly reverberations to produce a decidedly soothing and dreamlike musical state.

While hardly a definitive compilation of his best work, Laborandum does at least offer listeners a hearty sampling of Phil Western’s musical output. Subtly complex yet deceptively simple, Western creates an aural space in which listeners can drift into atmospheric introspection just as easily as they can lose themselves in danceable abandon. Laborandum is the proof, with a limited edition box set featuring four additional tracks to showcase even more of the man’s diverse musical range; what more could you need?
Track list:
Disc 1

  1. 303
  2. Ke Bop Bop
  3. I Roll the Nickels
  4. Angels
  5. Dark Star
  6. The Sign
  7. Shoehorn
  8. Gooble Gobble
  9. Poop
  10. 7 Years

Disc 2

  1. Everyone Tell
  2. Me Their Stories And
  3. Mines Always
  4. Worse

Phil Western MySpace
Phil Western Facebook
Rustblade Website
Rustblade MySpace
Rustblade Facebook
Rustblade Twitter
Purchase at:
Amazon CD
Amazon CD (Limited Edition)
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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