A longtime champion of underground electronic music, Philadelphia’s King Britt hardly needs an introduction, but you’re going to get one anyway. Beginning his ever-blossoming career in the late 80’s as a Philly-area club DJ, King Britt went on to DJ for the influential alt-hip hop group, Digable Planets (as Silkworm). The mid 90’s saw King Britt center in on the funky soul-humming Sylk130 collective, named after his residency at the renowned Sylk City venue in Philadelphia. The collective went on to sell 500,000 records with its first album, and the second finding contributions from an onslaught of 80’s and 90's pop heavyweights (Martin Fry, Alma Horton, De La Soul, Kathy Sledge, Grover Washington Jr., to name a few). Over the next several years, Britt produced sounds from all over the genre spectrum: from soul, hip hop, and gospel; to techno, house, and improvisational a la Sun Ra. His remixes include Tori Amos, Radiohead, Santigold, and a bunch of sweet numbers by Sister Gertrude Morgan. Basically, a heavyweight in his own right.
Okay, enough with the hyperlinks. On to the present tense.
Releasing under a new identity as Fhloston Paradigm, King Britt has found yet another somic territory to explore. This single release is an odd notch to the belts of both Britt and Hyperdub. First off, the three songs—spanning over 20 minutes—are built by drum machines, analog keyboards, 303’s, and finally edited in the computer. It makes sense for a veteran DJ to understand and appreciate analog synths, but the momentum of his recent parade had us guessing another direction.
The first track, “Chasing Rainbows,” is a
bossy tune. The notes I jotted down while listening on the subway were, “theme
music to the ass kicking, goodhearted, ex-convict protagonist that wears tight
denim and a t-shirt,” meaning, of course, the main character in John
Carpenter’s They Live (really it could be any character from any of Carpenter’s
films). From his website, Britt states, "I of course love science fiction films.
Blade Runner, Fifth Element and Rollerball all inspire me. So when I
did this Fhloston Paradigm ep, I wanted to dedicate it to those movies." The warm repeating melody paired with the deeper kick makes for
stomping music, only if you’re marching in weathered boots. But this is by far
the catchiest, poppiest song of the three. From here, Britt departs from
reassuring melody to probe further into his abstract sensibilities.
Song two, “The Chase,” is an eerily epic, nearly unprogressional tune, reminiscent of AFX. With a machine drum lead that succeeds in keeping your attention with plenty of switches—off and on—of delay, reverb, and beat repeats, the song doesn’t kick into gear until an ever-assembling acid melody works its way into a groovy jam session of quick beats and an off kilter bassline.
The final song, “Lilloos Seduction,” clocking in at over 10 minutes, finds Britt becoming even more entranced in his abstract, distant synth world. This dramatic track purposefully distances itself from the listener, leaving her lonely, introspective, and contemplative. Walking through the city, this music made my pace slower; I took in all the peculiar people busying themselves through the streets. A minimalist 303 bassline sounding like puffs of electric fuzz are eventually joined by ethereal keys and echoing drops that make up the nearly absent beat. Two-thirds of the way in, the song is still slowly building, and it’s just then you notice it’s about to end, adding to your sense of emotional desertion.
Listening to this Fhloston Paradigm EP will bring you from within the world of the 80’s, to an observer on a planet that looks identical to ours. You begin by imagining movie-like scenarios and end up watching the landscape outside of you. This music isn’t depressing, isn’t uplifting, and it’s hardly danceable. It’s anti-emotion, a blank stare, the ultimate observer. A refreshing album from an already genre-spanning artist, this release leaves one wondering where King Britt is headed next.
Hear more Fhloston Paradigm at Britt's home base, HERE, and download his free EP, Fiction Science.