Edit Select, Phlox

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Photo by Edward Sturr

[Prologue]

Light and dark. Those are the best words to describe Tony Scott’s first LP as Edit Select. Like fellow kilt-wearers Slam, the Glaswegian has been on the scene since the mid-90s. It’s only in the past five years, though, that he’s settled down with his newest moniker and begun to feel truly comfortable with himself. As much as anything, Phlox‘s 11 ying-and-yang excursions feel like instruments of this ongoing discovery, Scott reaching out to grasp at the distant, darkened corners of his musical vocabulary and committing the results to record.

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Which is not to say that Phlox is rife with wild experimentation. He may be part of the same sub-scene as guys like Mike Parker and Oscar Mulero, but even at his most difficult, Scott sounds conventional by comparison. In the past, that’s been by choice. “I don’t even really like broken beat,” he said in 2011, lamenting its lack of dance-floor potential. Clearly, something’s changed since then, because not only does Phlox‘s first half contain broken rhythms, it downright thrives on them. Here, and back in more familiar 4/4 territory, Scott feels supremely assured, as his sleek, practiced techno gradually gathers steam.

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Whereas artists like Perc and George Lanham have frequently used broken beats to emphasize sheer brutality, Scott’s pattering, light-threaded cuts are more like foreplay, building tension before the main event. Appearing second and third, “Survivors of the Pulse” and “Receptor” do brilliantly in this regard, gradually tightening the album’s grip after the floating phosphorescence of the ambient opener, “Blissfully Unaware,” has gently faded away. This track’s particular pastel hues never truly disappear, even as they degenerate into niggling, anxiety-filled drones in “Phlox” or desolate echoes in “Bauer Reprise.” This juxtaposition of light and shade gives even the album’s meatiest cuts an easy sense of balance.

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Apart from that, the benign overlays impart a cinematic sheen to the whole experience, as we saw with Function’s Incubation LP last year. It’s funny: Phlox is far from Scott’s first album, but it feels touched by the same excited, veteran hand as Function’s 20-years-in-the-making debut. Their shared understanding of pacing and contrast would seem the key. Only “Asperity,” the digital-only) stomping final track, feels a tad unnecessary. With that vestigial tail lopped off, Phlox becomes a cliché home-listening album, bookended by pleasant but largely generic ambient. It’s the eight tracks in between those two ends that make a real splash, though. When you’re craving some harder drums, “Receptor” brings them. When you’re ready for pillowy swathes of melody, “Circling” is there. And when you need just one final groove to carry you to the finish, the warm, incessant thrum of “Bauer Reprise” steps in. It’s almost as if Scott can read minds. With this quality backing it up, Phlox is a mostly exquisite listen, which fans of hypnotic techno will rightly devour.

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