Ø [Phase] – Frames of Reference
For a label whose whole existence centres on providing new and compelling interpretations of dance floor techno, Frames of Reference is quite a leap. Recorded over a period of years by UK artist Ø [Phase], the album’s direction is at times in stark contrast to the advanced yet functional approach that Token favours.
This is most audible at the start and end of the album. The former is marked by “Binary Opposition (Process 3)”, a spacey synth coda, while at the other end, there are the dreamy textures of the beatless “Just Another Dance” and “Self Deceit”, characterised by widescreen synths, chiming pulses and a wayward, shuffling rhythm. Needless to say, Ø [Phase] also explores the other end of the spectrum, often ending up with extreme outcomes.
For example, Frames of Reference contains the searing industrial “Misaligned”, its stomping rhythm veering close to overpowering and the churning chords and headlong, relentless rush of “Shadow Chaser”. There are also moments when Ø [Phase] reverts to type, with “Dirtro II” and “On The Edge” both delivering the kind of cold, almost detached minimal techno that Token has become known for. And for every cohort of frequency-shifting tones and linear rhythms, Frames of Reference also offers alternatives, often in unexpected shapes and sizes. “The Bwiti Initiate” for example, sounds like Hardfloor at their most playful, the 303s pirouetting in playful arcs rather than slamming the listener square across the forehead.
“Distracted” is less of a creative stretch, but just as difficult to imagine coming from Phase’s studio. Centred on slightly detuned, psychedelic riffing, its rhythm is steely and repetitive, coming across as a fortified, steel-jawed Mathew Jonson. Frames of Reference may mark a big shift in artistic direction for Kr!z imprint and one of its main artists, but it’s a move that’ll serve both label and producer well in the long run.
1. Binary Opposition (Process 3)
2. The Bwiti Initiate
4. Dirtro II
5. On The Edge
8. Just Another Dance
9. Shadow Caster
10. Self Deceit