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CD REVIEW: Phileas - Spoken Wor(l)d
By Alex Jasperse - 10/04/2008 - 11:46 AM EDT

Artist: Phileas
Album: Spoken Wor(l)d [2008]
Label: Independent
Genre: Electronic
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9.0/10
Songwriting Skills: 9.0/10
Performance Skill: 9.0/10
CD Review:

Having spent three years traveling the globe and collecting vocal samples, Phileas’s Spoken Wor(l)d is a musical and communication delicacy that effortlessly spans nearly 30 languages. It is an utterly captivating electronic world tour-de-force true to the concept of sonic exploration: get ready to call this musical globalization at its best.

Simplistic male vocals slip forwards in “Welcome,” initiating the listener to the world Phileas has created. The vocals are soon outlined by synths that gaze longingly across the musical horizon which quickly fade into the beginnings of beat that marches forwards slowly, offering a comforting pulse of familiarity before dissolving entirely. Oozing pure musical elegance, “Ursprache” opens the doors to an exclusive world where languages quickly begin to surround, offering forth bits of conversations to cling onto, tickling the imagination with curiosity. Brilliantly simplistic melodic lines composed of nothing more than whispery synth lines pitch shifting race by, shimmering with glowing textures that seduce and hypnotize.

Interweaving female voices into the rhythmic and melodic structure of “Batman in D,” the upbeat finesse of the piece soon breaks down to welcome forth a woman speaking in French for several moments. It is the real first taste of a conversation – naturally prompting the listener to grasp onto elements of what’s being said – however, it soon parts to give way to “Sight for a 24-Hour Rotation.” Sonically more pronounced than the previous tracks, booming drums lines and heavy doses of synths offset male vocals casually drifting across, evoking a Ladytron anthemic flavour. However, just as things begin to feel as though they are about to become more musically intense, Phileas shifts gears in “The Reason to Stay Awake,” placing a heavier emphasis on the spoken words once again.

While the laughs in “Red Drowning Sun” seem to inadvertently remind the listener how little they know (or are able to identify) each language being spoken, it quickly reverts back to a focus on the melodic momentum. Picking up the beat to a dancefloor velocity, synths begin to urge on various keyboard melodies to take control and lead, but just as things appear to be reverting to familiar form, the melody distances itself to let low-fi vocals enter – finishing on a beautiful mix of low end processed vocals that are spread across the final seconds. As with all the other pieces, “Picture Game” picks up hints of the previous track, stirring up vocal and melodic samples in a concoction of rich and moody washes that begin to rain down on the musical landscape.

To some degree it may be frustrating for some listeners to deal with the reality they cannot latch onto any substantial lyrical content (let alone finding enough passages in their respective language) throughout Spoken Wor(l)d. As Phileas notes on his website “the meaning of the words [are] less important than they sound that they make,” and upon approaching his music from this perspective, what is never lost is the emotional power his pieces are charged with. Vocals, through this lens, latch on and compliment ascending melodic lines in pieces like “A Grasshopper’s Journey” and “Stuck on the Tube,” layering the mechanic instrumentation with rich, natural textures.

Spoken Wor(l)d is a powerful musical journey that’s littered with fragmented images, blurry conversations and immaculate melodies that illuminate every track with a gratifying sense of wonder and intrigue. It is a delicious mystery, and an album that will allow your musical consciousness to wander freely, encouraging you to explore the mesmerizing depths of the electronic worlds he’s created. Quite simply, this is a must have.

For more information, please visit Phileas’s official website.

The Verdict: 9.0/10

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