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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