Ø [Phase]: Alone in Time?

Two years on from his Frames of Reference album debut, UK-based producer Ashley Burchett returns with another impeccably crafted Ø [Phase] collection. A number of associations arise as I listen to Alone in Time?'s art-techno, among them Tresor and Drexciya; certainly its material is a treat for the ears, filled as it is with echo effects and maximal use of the stereo field (see the title track for one particularly strong example), and Burchett invests his work with taste and imagination without losing sight of its fundamental techno dimension. The seventy-five-minute release is available in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, but the one of choice would have to be vinyl, given that Token is issuing Alone in Time? in a triple twelve-inch format. It's the preferred mode of reception in this case for the way it gives the one-time mastering engineer's wide-screen tracks additional clarity and punch.

The album's clean production style comes into focus from the moment “Spacialize” appears. Sleek and aerodynamic, the kinetic cut roars with metronomic precision, its thrusting pulse locking into position as wave upon battering wave of clicking patterns unsuccessfully attempts to destabilize it. Burchett hauls out booming kick drums and ringing cymbals for the pulverizing techno workout “Orbitron,” a powerful exercise in club-directed sonic design that in its tinkling keyboard solo even flirts with prog. An album peak of sorts is reached midway through in “The Maze,” which swells to epic proportions as it powers its way through almost ten minutes of awe-inspiring scenescapes of sometimes dystopic character. Elsewhere, the Drexciya connection surfaces most conspicuously in the electro-fied beats and synths swirling through “Remote,” and the fires stoked in “Nep-tune” and “R-Mash” are so intense and primal the effect is almost frightening.

While the album's packed with relentless, take-no-prisoners-styled mini-epics that draw from acid, underground techno, electro, and the Detroit tradition, there's an authenticity and artfulness to these tracks that's hard to miss. Burchett is clearly no hack producer who throws a beat together and then randomly adds an effect here or there to fit a seven-minute template; instead, each piece registers as a distinct conception thoughtfully assembled with care and attention to balance. A bouncy, Tresor-styled cut such as “Blind Eye” might seem focused wholly on the dancefloor, but it also includes so many cross-currents of detail it also satisfies as a creative construction tailor-made for headphones listening.

November 2015