By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
Phaseone is the moniker of local hip-hop DJ and producer Andrew Jernigan, a south-city resident who glues together clanging drum machines, airy string synthesizers and sampled vocals. Hip-hop may be his home base, but in the past year or so, Jernigan has branched out toward more ambient soundscapes as well as some high-profile work (he remixed Bloc Party's "Zephyrus" for this year's Intimacy Remixed album). Phaseone dropped the 48-track Mad Weight last year as a kind of overloaded C.V. of his talents, but Thanks But No Thanks gives him more room to let his instrumental compositions bloom.
As a songwriter, Phaseone relies on a few pet sounds: '80s orchestral synths, sharp-edged hi-hats and loads of reverb. His use of samples is tasteful and discreet (you'd have to be a hell of a crate digger to pick them out) and, on a song like "Temp Tags/Starfox," he is able to conjure some subwoofer-punishing Moog bass lines. This tension — Vangelis' synth rig mixed with Dr. Dre's drum machine, all run through an Echoplex — guides the entire disc. "Tower Grove Joint" has both the breathy pulse of a sweaty booty jam alongside gossamer synth pads and a steady shower of sampled flutes and blippy analog bits and bytes. The album-closing "Alladat" is the most immediate of the tracks here: The stutter-step beat undercuts a soulful electric-piano lick and heavily reverbed vocal samples. At two-and-a-half minutes, the track ends far too soon — rapture seems just around the corner.
In the end it's hard to know what to make of this album. If it's meant as fodder for Phaseone's future hip-hop productions, there is plenty of potential — the beats are always banging, and his keyboard flourishes give a well-rounded shape to the songs. But as a stand-alone record, it's too thumping for background music, yet too abstract for hip-hop. However, listeners who let Phaseone take the wheel for the 40-minute ride will hear the evolution of lock-step, bass-heavy beats into a softer, more spacey but no less potent exploration into hip-hop's dark matter.
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Region: St. Louis - South Grand
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