Thursday, November 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Phonat - Learn To Recycle

In the second installment of my TBT series, it is my pleasure to re-introduce the world to one of the most brilliant, adventurous, creative and groundbreaking tracks I've ever heard, Phonat's schizophrenic "Learn To Recycle."
As you might expect, I first heard this masterpiece of movement at my guru's house over that fateful summer break in which I was introduced to Fake Blood, Infected Mushroom's "Bombat," London Elektricity "All Hell Is Breaking Loose," and JFK's edit of Buy Now "Body Crash," among others.

At the time I was first introduced to Phonat and "Learn To Recycle" (same time as "Set Me Free") it was like nothing I'd ever heard before, and listening back to it today I still feel the same way. It is quite possibly the most unique and original pieces of music I've ever heard before. That is not to say that the sounds were or are new or otherworldly, but the composition itself is certainly unparalleled.
It was just this September when I saw the name Phonat once again, when I downloaded his most recent production "Fire" featuring Jolie & The Key, released under Skrillex's OWSLA. It of course spurred me to go back and listen once again to "Learn To Recycle" and boy did the feels rush back. At least twice over the course of the track do you feel as though the track must have changed, and it has but it's more evolved than changed.
The opening vocal sample is reminiscent of the time (2008) when producers did a whole lot more vocal manipulation, you can't help but feel the anticipation of infectious playfulness, from the DJ passed down through the crowd; the DJ becomes puppet-master. More than 30 seconds into the track Phonat finally establishes a more driving beat with the bassline and wobbly, bent synth stabs. He continues to manipulate and tweak the beat until shortly after 1:20 into the track when all but the bounciest bassline yet rises, being the only sound remaining, quickly the drum and synths are added back creating the first real break from the 'normal.'
But of course there is no normal in this track, "Learn To Recycle" is truly unique in it's composition. With all the pieces back involved and working at full steam, the tension rises until about 1:45 when everything gets flipped. The pace quickens and the beats are broken; the track turns into an absolute rager, perfect for stomping and shuffling all over the dancefloor. But that doesn't last long as nearly everything but the synths evaporate and once again the bass and beat change and your legs become like jello. The sounds are all familiar but the tuning and timing of them is different and alien. The track almost becomes a drum and bass belter, and until finally that magical climax it reached when Phonat plateaus by upping the electro vibes that were dormant since the very beginning by adding the MSTRKRFT-esque electric guitar, soaring so beautifully over the final minute of the piece.
Besides the obvious directional changes Phonat uses in "Learn To Recycle," my favourite part of the track is the constantly manipulated and multiple iterations of the bass. It serves as the road map for the track, if you focus on the bass and how it's changing you can hear it's future telling abilities. Phonat does exactly what I expect in music; it's all about the movement. Mixtapes and live sets are great at doing this simply because different songs put you in different places, it is far more difficult for that to happen in one single track, but Phonat accomplishes this feat to perfection. It's got multiple distinct movements, in such a short time frame, but never does it feel disjointed. Play it on repeat!

Composition 3/3
Dynamics 2/2
Improvisation/Progression 3/3
Melody/Harmony 2/3
Originality 2/2
Sonic Quality 2/2
TOTAL 14/15