Currently enjoying “The Escapist” by Phil Western

Musician and Subconscious co-founder Phil Western is fairly unknown when compared to some of the high-profile acts he’s worked for as an engineer and remixer. But he’s been putting out an extensive range of solo material for years now, sometimes under his own name, sometimes under one of any number of aliases, and sometimes as part of larger groups like Download or PlatEAU. The Escapist is Western’s first full album released under his own name, and it’s an impressive and accomplished departure from a contributor turned solo artist.

I bought this album in the summer after it came out in 1998, and it’s one of those albums that finds its way back to the top of the pile once a year or so. It’s a densely layered album, combining driving electronics with more lush organic instrumentation, and melding global musical styles with the industrial and psychedelic sounds Western had been known for at the time. It’s not as heavy an album as you might expect, but it’s misleading to call it light; it’s a rich and textured album that rewards repeated listening by revealing new elements each time.

What’s more, the styles never clash, and the production never gets muddy. There’s a lot happening at once on this record, and it all just fits. The arrangements are a testament to Western’s skills as a composer, but the end results are just as a strong a reflection of his skills as a producer and engineer. In any respect, it’s an album well worth a listen.

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