Review : Phase Fatale – ‘Reverse Fall’ (Ostgut Ton)

J.G. Ballard’s Crash is a jarring insight into car-crash sexual fetishism. The controversial novel is a central inspiration for Hayden Payne, aka Phase Fatale’s most recent record. Evoking the isolation of a night drive, the EP further explores the dystopian themes touched upon in Payne’s earlier work.

Reverse Fall is the producer’s debut record with Berlin institution Ostgut Ton, having already released on their sub-label Unterton last year. Despite holding residencies at respected clubs such as Berghain and Tbilisi’s Khidi, Payne’s musical upbringing was far removed from the club environment. Instead, he was raised on the sounds of post punk and cold wave introduced by his father. In fact, it wasn’t until his teenage years when he started attending the infamous Wierd parties formerly held at New York’s Home Sweet Home, that he was exposed to the heavier sounds being imported over from Europe.

As a result, Payne has crafted a signature sound that fuses the sounds of early ’80s EBM with modern techno. For him, these two genres are intrinsically linked, with techno developing from the work of earlier pioneers such as Kraftwerk and DAF. Formally, similarities are to be found in the mechanical instrumentation, and dark atmospheres, and by combining these genres, Payne refreshes the 4×4 rhythms of conventional techno.

That isn’t to say this sound is without precedent. In fact, it owes much to the work of Payne’s frequent collaborator and mentor Juan Mendez aka Silent Servant, who has been producing techno-infused minimal wave for much of his career. Mendez’s influence on Payne is clear with Reverse Fall; the tracks have more space to breathe than earlier Phase Fatale releases, akin to the more minimal sound of Silent Servant.

The record signals a departure from Payne’s signature style, with a more concentrated focus on techno. That’s not to say that Reverse Fall is a lacklustre version of Phase Fatale’s sound; if anything this approach has resulted in a more cohesive, streamlined vision. The title track packs all the more punch with its clear bassline melody and distorted hi-hats.

The laboured tempo and piercing sonics of ‘Incision’ resemble the churning of scrap metal, taking inspiration from the sound of industrial. ‘Blackbox’ picks up the pace with a high-octane techno track including a psychedelic arpeggio line and a driving kick, whereas ‘Empty Whip’ is more subdued, with a spacious groove punctuated by drones.

Reverse Fall is out now on Ostgut Ton.

Get it here.

Words: Jess Cohen

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