Ø [Phase]Frames Of Reference



Binary Opposition (Process 3)
The Bwiti Initiate
Dirtro II
Just Another Dance
Shadow Caster
Self Deceit
Binary Opposition (Process 3)5:38
The Bwiti Initiate6:14
Dirtro II6:40
On The Edge6:52
Just Another Dance5:41
Shadow Caster6:13
Self Deceit6:07

Credits (1)


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    Cover of Frames Of Reference, 2013-10-21, CDFrames Of Reference
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    Token – TOKEN33CDBelgium2013Belgium2013
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    Cover of Frames Of Reference, 2013-10-21, VinylFrames Of Reference
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    Token – TOKEN33LPBelgium2013Belgium2013
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    Cover of Frames Of Reference, 2013-10-19, CDFrames Of Reference
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    Octave Lab – OTLCD2003Japan2013Japan2013
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    • Lektronikumuz's avatar
      Edited 6 years ago
      The "Ø [Phase] - On The Edge / Perplexed" release containing 2 tracks that was later includded on CD version, as a part of this album "Frames Of Reference"... same year.
      • maroko's avatar
        'Frames of Reference' is the some 12 years in the making debut album from UK based techno producer, on/off artwork designer and mastering engineer Ashley Burchett, better known as Phase. Kicking off his prolific recording career on Steve Bicknell’s Cosmic label and Nick Dunton’s and Richard Polson’s evergreen imprint Surface, he’s garnered a solid “producer’s producer” reputation before making a move to Belgian’s Token power house in 2007. Since then, his release schedule, as well as his gigs, have increased, earning him appearances in all the top clubs, including regular spots at the world renowned Berghain in Berlin. The increased production rate, together with a more professional take on his DJ career, have gained him a substantial amount of loyal supporters, and a dedicated fan base eagerly awaiting for a new release of his. Most importantly, through a fruitful bond with Token, mr. Burchett has released some of the most well executed and critically acclaimed techno releases in recent history, namely “Fragmenta”, “Transantarctic” and above all, the immaculate 2012 two tracker “Binary Opposition”. A gigantic remix pack and two brand new EPs later, it was long overdue for Phase to finally drop his freshman full length, so let’s take a closer look.

        Someone compared listening to “Frames Of Reference” to waiting for a hammer to fall. Not a futile observation, that’s for sure. Instead of bursting out and exploding, it favors a slow, candle like burn, and an after taste that lasts way belong the initial, physical impact. Phase is patiently reeling off one microcosm after another with a sublime sense of pace, and when the intensity does reach its maximum – like on Misaligned – it’s never due to scuffed sounds or plain hardness.

        The album’s opening tune, Binary Opposition (Process 3), boasts a rhythm section which hints at his glorious magnum opus from 2012, yet it’s more refined, subtle if you like. It’s lighter, more melody infused, and most obviously, it has the BPMs toned down. The playful harmony sets an excellent tone, while the overall floating vibe makes it lean more toward peaceful stasis rather than edgy mechanics.

        The Bwiti Initiate applies a funky, head nodding techno rhythm, underpinned by bridled acid stabs and divine sprinkling effects some two minutes deep. All is going well until the track reaches its mid-section. There is a change in focus, as the bass line becomes more nagging and dominant, but it’s the method used to reach this state that bothers me. Everyone knows I’m an dedicated adversary of key changes, and Phase introduces in what is in my opinion a God awful modulation some three and a half minutes into the track, giving it an utterly pointless change in direction just when I was really starting to feel it.

        Distracted reintroduces the trick used on The Chasedown, via the whining central riff placed at its core, and then encircling it with crashing hi hat action, and a heavily rolling rhythm. It’s stubborn repetition through and through, and one that will test the listener’s patience, yet if approached to correctly, it works wonders. If the producer’s primary concern is to pursue techno's function as a form of deep body meditation, then this is a path of exile spiked with thorns one must cross in order to get there. His insectoid layering and often incomprehensible sound arrangements come across as totally out of sync with, well, anything, but it’s his ability to make techno undeniably effective and deadly when it is required to come across as such, yet he never delivers the goods by doing something obvious. Distracted is a true to form, intense affair, but all the tension is in the meticulous sound design itself, not in rushed tempos. Notice how this one does not exceed 130 BPM while sounding slightly faster.

        The following tunes, Dirtro II and Misaligned, are where the album reaches its finest moments in my opinion. The first, a jaw dropping, melodically complex techno work out, is a fine example as any you’ve heard of Ashely’s unparalleled craftsmanship. The balance between dance floor effectiveness and imaginative depth is perfected here. The steady progressive beats, the inconspicuous acid and the icy synths to top it all off, Dirtro II is perfection in both sophisticated sound design and dance floor prowess. Like the previous one, the pace is moderate, but it’s everything else that elevates the music to new levels of intensity. The part around the three minute mark must be my favorite bit on the album. Simply said, that synth work is flawless. This track has recently been released as a single, backed up by a potent Robert Hood remix, be sure not to miss it. Busy in the details and offensive if necessary, Dirtro is a keeper.

        The latter is the opposite. If Phase has a reputation of being patient and restrained when he needs to be, then Misaligned sees the producer letting go, going absolutely loose. Misaligned is an unadulterated, pummeling, cavernous techno track, with unrelenting tunneling drive that easily exceeds another ferocious classic of his, Decode. In fact, if you liked how easily and mightily he pistol whipped dance floors with that one and Binary Opposition (Process 1), then I can absolutely assure you that you’ll go nuts for this monster. As much as I honestly admire Ashley’s studious and obsessive approach to music and production, I am still totally convinced his output works best when it aims straight for the jugular. The remainder of the album is great, Misaligned is majestic. There, I said it. This literary sounds like it was conceived for a secret floor of the Berghain club, one that is located eight meters under the main one.

        Just Another Dance is an obvious tribute to Detroit luminaries such as Carl Craig and Derrick May. Here, we see Phase drop his dance floor laurels, and put on his deeply melodic garments on. Although very nice on its own, I have a feeling that Phase is merely treading water here. It’s all good and well done, but the pioneers he may (or may not be) honoring here have all done this way better, quite some time ago too. The moment at the 04:30 mark borders cheese in my opinion, as he tries too hard to push the already overwhelming melody to the crowded surface. The result is an unpleasant ear irritation, which is not something I want to experience while listening to mellow Detroit techno. While the change in pace and style is more than welcome, and by no means is this a bad tune, I honestly think mr. Burchett needs some more time in order to fully realize his potential as a vintage Detroit techno producer, or at least as someone who is able to skillfully manifest their own take on the style.

        Shadow Caster takes us back to dance floor business. Steam train bass line, detailed programming and tough rolling drums make this another sonic barrage of his. The tone is set somewhere between Distracted and Misaligned: it lacks the playful and piercing highs of the first yet it’s not as thundering as the latter. Regardless, it’s purist techno that’ll live up to its task and fulfill its club duties. There’s an invigorating break thrown in somewhere along the line for good measure, but that’s not what’ll grab you here – it’s the rugged bass line and the drive, that reminds of the more straight forward tracks off his Subtext EP. Fierce, captivating and densely layered techno for maximal crowd response. That’s Shadow Catser!

        Self Deceit is one of the album’s more daring and introspective moments. The monumental pads deployed at the beginning expose us to a world of feather pillow subtle nuances, only to give in to a mid-section synth intrusion and string intervention. Moments later, it all vanishes, and we are pulled back in to end the ride on the strength of the broken drum beats. Self Deceit is great way to end the album, and a welcome change in percussive elements. Soothing, melodic, and still complex and compelling, it finds Ashely delivering the goods even if immersed in donwtempo waters.

        My final verdict would be: for a debut album, you get your money’s worth here, no doubt. Many, like myself are used to seeing Ashely Burchett pop up once in a year with a 12”, so a full length and about four other releases of his in a two year span was kind of awkward. Luckily, he’s an exceptional producer, and not a track of his is pure filler. On the downside, any album that attempts taking stabs at more things at once is ought to be slightly flawed. As such, “Frames Of Reference” is not perfect, but that is not the point. When it really hits the spot, there is hardly anything else released in 2013 that I’d place under the needle. There is room for improvement, which in the case of Ashley Burchett is always a good sign, because unlike many, he’s obviously overridden with ideas. Nothing on here, at least in my ears, tops “Binary Opposition”, which might just end up being his chef d'oeuvre, but it does beat the last two EPs he released. One other thing that really sticks out about this album is the lack of compressed bass response. More often than not, Phase gives music time and space to fully breathe, and the majority of the tracks here profit from it. The range is huge, and sometimes the mids and the highs are brought to life in a very palpable manner. Where most opt for a bass heavy, monstrous sound, Phase opts for luxury, tonal finesse and gradually building funk, rather than plain hitting you with it right off. As such, he is a producer I hold in the highest regard. I think most of “Frames Of Reference” will prove its real beauty over extended periods of time, and multiple, although not quotidian listening sessions.
        • Katrien's avatar
          This record is absolutely awesome!
          • Micx's avatar
            Amazing album, one of my favorites of 2013 no doubt. Thank you, Token and Phase. 5/5
            • IainMac's avatar
              Techno album of the year. To quote Resident Advisor; 'brutally functional when it needs to be'.

              Further cementing my opinion that Token are the best techno label at the moment and Phase one of the most underrated producers.

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