The bittersweet contradiction of the human condition summed up in song.
The biggest lie we feed ourselves from birth is happily ever after. Actually, make that two lies in one: the first being this foolish idea of constant bliss (which, in reality, would be a right old bore) and the second the ultimate denial (hello mortality). But we do it because it’s a comfort; it makes the unknowable that much more palatable.
With seasoned sleight of hand, St Louis producer Phaseone plays up our blind-eye behaviour with this perfect contradiction of a new track. Focusing on three elements – a rolling beat, a circling snare, and a looping vocal refrain – he paints them as if in amber, caught in an eternal dance. Yet the vocal sample calls bullshit: “It’s not forever.”
It’s the simplest of tracks – very little happens once he’s set those three elements in motion, save for a heart-swelling pressure change half-way through that thickens the mood like cooling treacle – but that’s its allure. Listening, like the familiar lie, is a comfort: an embrace that stays the heart, keeps the mind from straying to anxious territory. It’s not forever; not the highs nor the lows. That’s the rub but the relief too.
Thanks to those drifting, emotionally-drenched beats, it could be tempting to place Phaseone along with Supreme Cuts and Friendzone on that growing list of US rap producers who rose to prominence following Clams Casino’s success but that would be to overlook the fact the St Louis producer has been on this tip for years. Just check his sublime, Dilla-influenced ‘Thanks But No Thanks’ album, still available for free download, from 2009. Or his follow-up mixtape ‘White Collar Crime’ released the same year, featuring his remixes of Burial and Animal Collective.
“I’m always drawn to really emotional harmonies and chord progressions when I listen to music – stuff that cuts your soul”, he told me in a quick catchup interview back in 2010. Having since relocated to Brooklyn, he’s been a little quiet for a minute which makes It’s Not Forever all the more welcome. The good stuff might not last forever but it’s worth waiting for.