Frames of Reference
A solid addition to the Belgium-based Token Records discography and a dozen years in the making, Frames of Reference is also, surprisingly, the debut album from UK-based techno producer and mastering engineer Ø [Phase] (real name Ashley Burchett). It's hardly the premiere Ø [Phase] production, however: that distinction belongs to the twelve-inch Module Overload that Cosmic Records issued in 2000, and Ø [Phase] has also released material on Inceptive, Ingoma, and (since 2007) Token and done remixes for figures such as Robert Hood, Mark Broom, and Peter Van Hoesen. It's his uncompromising and gritty minimal techno style that makes him a seemingly perfect fit for Token, however.
Frames of Reference takes flight with “Binary Opposition (Process 3),” a penetrating slab of dubby techno that effectively showcases Burchett's deft sound design skills and artful deployment of build-ups. Here and elsewhere, wave upon wave of synthetic textures emerge from silence and quickly gather in strength, while patterns pulsate, pan, and echo within Burchett's deep mixes. Melody is downplayed in favour of pummeling 4/4 rhythms, with kick drum patterns and cymbals the primary elements. The material is far from artless, though: Burchett makes even the most primal track interesting by draping unusual accents and textures across its pounding base.
“The Bwiti Initiate” makes a direct connection between the Ø [Phase] sound and Token's when a locomotive techno pulse pounds insistently while a synthetic swarm swells alongside. One detects subtle evidence of a Detroit techno influence in “The Bwiti Initiate,” as well as in “Distracted” and “Misaligned,” which serve up punishing techno grooves with fervent conviction. Ø [Phase]'s music at times oozes a menacing edge, as demonstrated by “On the Edge,” which picks relentlessly at a festering scab like some beyond-help meth addict.In “Just Another Dance,” a (relatively) softer side of Ø [Phase] is presented, with strings, hi-hats, and sequencer patterns coming together for six minutes of future-techno in the best Detroit tradition. But don't be deceived: Frames of Reference is conceived with pure techno heads in mind, with almost every one of its ten obsessive throwdowns raw, aggressive, and unrelenting in character.