Phoelix's 'TEMPO' Is An Immersive Experience Moving To Its Own Beat
Certain projects require submersion. In a modern music industry dominated by singles, uncommon are projects requiring your full attention. Following up his GSPL EP, Phoelix has no interest in conventional wisdom. GSPL was the Fox Valley artist's introduction as a solo artist, proof of his vast repertoire. GSPL also set the table of his first full-length, TEMPO. TEMPO is a beautifully strange project, a patient and experimental look into the artistic sensibilities of Phoelix. It’s the project he wanted to make, no reservations or compromises.
TEMPO moves at it’s own speed, a slow burning ebb and flow created by Phoelix, waving in and out. The tide brings in plenty of singles, but in-between is where TEMPO is defined. The tracks are paintings, streaks of color filling in a wider picture. Phoelix is building a wall of sound where each song bleeds into the next. Whether that’s the best marketing strategy is besides the point. A thick, experimental soup of hip-hop, funk, soul, r&b and a large helping of "etcetera", It’s that mix of stubbornness and confidence to subvert the rules of music in 2018 that makes TEMPO special.
Phoelix walks the line between unconventional and esoteric, unafraid to challenge listeners. Less experienced artists would risk losing steam, but in Phoelix’s steady hands TEMPO’s’ pressure keeps rising. On TEMPO there’s always something new around the corner that grips your ears tightly, and the driving bass is constantly pushing you forward. There are a number of traditional “single” singles on here, usually the more upbeat tracks. The prehistoric stomp of “Pluton”, the grind of “Dirty”, the Smino collab “Taranphoeno”. But the best bits of ‘TEMPO’ lie in between, where Phoelix begins going off the beaten path. Take “Settle Down”, where Phoelix’s brother Dax croons in Spanish over an unrelenting bassline, or the transformative vocals on “Drip”. Throughout ‘TEMPO’, Phoelix is doing his best to embrace the unexpected.
Phoelix’s madcap approach to sound sets him apart and defines TEMPO. A prodigious bassist, the all-consuming lines of Phoelix are the heart of this project. Listening to them is like peering into a black hole on the verge of swallowing you whole. There’s so much power there. “Brainwash” is an example of a track that’s little more than basslines and vocal harmonies, but so gloriously weird that you keep pressing back to relisten. Lingering throughout TEMPO are the noises that hang over the sub of the project, drills, snaps, shouts, claps, industrial lifts, synths of every variety, a factory of cacophonous noises emerging from the mind of Phoelix, all at his disposal. Even his voice is rubber, harmonized, stretched, distorted, filtered.
One takeaway from this project is that Phoelix should continue leaning on his singing. He’s a gifted writer, and when delivered through song there’s just as much power as when delivered through his raps, while allowing more room to explore sound and melody. Especially in the context of TEMPO’s’ bizarro vibe, gravity defying vocals make all the sense in the world. His raps go crazy - “Sultan” sees Phoelix at his best – but his singing is shooting for the stars. Rapping is only one part of what Phoelix does, he’s as complete an artist as they come.
TEMPO is a fantastic exploration of sound, While there are choice tracks to throw at someone looking for a quick 3 minutes, your best bet is to sit down and listen from beginning to end. To do otherwise would be to look at a vivid painting in grayscale. When it comes to Phoelix, leave no stone unturned. Get up to speed, and listen to ‘TEMPO’ ASAP.