- When he signed to 50Weapons in 2011, Phon.o's mix of streamlined, bass-first techno and mournful electronica represented the label's varying impulses. He's an expert chameleon, though he's sometimes not much more. Beautifully polished as they are, his tracks often lack personality—Carsten Aermes has jumped from genre to genre without ever finding his niche. Afterglow, his debut for Tectonic and first record since 50Weapons folded, makes another jump. Afterglow takes cues from old dubstep records, and Aermes's new outfit suits him.
Though you wouldn't mistake Afterglow for a 2007 Tectonic record, it's built with the elements of bread-and-butter dubstep. The fleet-footed "Mercurial" is twitchy, like footwork at a dubstep tempo. The sounds around the drums—sonorous moans, distant chords, wriggling sub-bass—are pure DMZ, putting Phon.o among the likes of Commodo, producers injecting new life into this old sound. You could say the same for "U8 Phunk" and its hopscotching bassline. Come for the moreish drums, swooping and snapping like tennis balls volleyed across a court, and stay for the eerie chords recalling a classic Mala dubplate.
Aermes's take on dubstep is so pleasing that the third track, a 132 BPM breaks tune in the style of Tessela, feels disappointing by comparison. "Bell Blender" is no slouch—Aermes juggles the drums like a pro, and it's got more of those pithy basslines—but something about it feels bland and trendy. It's an exercise in relevance on a record otherwise full of neat little anachronisms.
AA1 U8 Phunk
AA2 Bell Blender