Phasen: Listening to Old West Coast Rap
I, Absentee

Based on the title, I half-expected Ryan Parmer's latest Phasen release to be a full-fledged hip-hop project by the Florida-based producer with at least a handful of cuts featuring MCs. As it turns out, though subtle traces of the West Coast's ‘90s hip-hop scene do surface in some of the fifteen tracks, the collection is less an in-depth exploration of one style and instead a wide-ranging affair that touches upon multiple Phasen bases—melodic IDM, electro, funk, electronica, acid, jazz, and, yes, hip-hop—with all of it executed with an impressive degree of flair and conviction. Though the U-Cover vet and [Unnamed Label] Records impresario maintains a relentless production schedule (the number of CD-R and CD releases issued since 2007 is currently in the double digits—and counting), his material never sounds slapdash, sloppy, or unfinished. In fact, if there's one thing Parmer's music could use more of, it's grit and grime. There's no denying the appeal of the title cut's funky IDM and “I Don't Really Care For Egg Salad” is a memorably suave fusion of IDM and funky house, but at times Listening To Old West Coast Rap sounds too polished; while the tracks' programmed beats do the job serviceably enough, for example, they also tend to sanitize it, leaving one to imagine how much more powerful the material would sound if someone like Battles' John Stanier were helming the drum chair (Rumorse's “Vast Nullarbor” remix of the title cut comes closest to that feel when the track explodes exuberantly halfway through its ten-minute running time) . Having said that, there's also much to recommend the release: the downtempo funk of “The Most Spiritual” (which does, in fact, include some of that much-needed grime); “Diskotek,” whose oomph comes courtesy of a nice funk guitar line and synth-laden disco beats; “Cheux,” an elegant, piano-based setting of classical-styled melancholia (slightly marred by the needless overstatement of rain sounds and bird chirps); and “A Negative Epiphany,” which effectively showcases Phasen's more symphonic side. All told, the release provides not only a comprehensive overview but a perfect introduction to listeners new to Parmer's music.

July 2009