Track By Track: Phaeleh – ‘Lost Time’

Emerging during dubstep’s halcyon days of 2008, Phaeleh (aka. Matt Preston) has managed to transcend the genre that birthed him and develop a strong and devoted following all of his own. The Bristolian producer’s first album, Fallen Light, received praise for its deft combination of ambient textures and musicality with sub bass power, marking him out as one of the scene’s most versatile and interesting producers.

Whilst his last two albums Somnus and Illusion Of the Tale have been ambient affairs, his latest effort Lost Time marks a return to more beat-focused compositions. Spread across ten tracks, Lost Time sees Phaeleh feature the atmospheric sub heavy melodies he is known for whilst also incorporating more of the live instrumentation he has been using throughout his shows in recent years.

Written towards the end of 2014, the full length comes off “a few years lost within the music industry abyss”, with the album’s title referring to themes of missed opportunities and looking back. In celebration of its release, we caught up with Phaeleh for a run through the creative process, discussing running emotions, inspirations and studio mentality.

Phaeleh Lost Time

1. Oceans

This was made at a point where I was making a lot of instrumental tracks to complement the beat-driven stuff. It was originally all just programmed in Cubase, but I was lucky enough to get the very talented Will Memotone into the studio to double the parts with some real cello which helped give the track some air. I spent a lot of time playing with the source material and introducing some layers of field recordings and noise. Whilst I’d love to do some full length orchestral stuff, I was keen to keep it short and use as an intro to the album.

2. Feel You Fade

This is the oldest track on the album, and it was instrumental for most of its life. It’s been through many iterations and the end result seems to combine a lot of elements from these different versions, so there’s a mixture of more organic guitars and strings with elements from more electronic versions where the synths come into play. As the track has always had a very folky feel to me, there was no one better than Augustus Ghost to add vocals to it, and I love what we managed to achieve. She definitely helped me make the track evolve and build over the course of it, as I originally had walls of vocals from the beginning, in my attempt to out-harmony bohemian rhapsody, but the final version definitely works best.

3. Icarus

Icarus was made around the same time I was finishing off ‘Illusion of the Tale’ and also the remixes for Cloud Boat and Roger Goula in 2016, which is why it’s so synth tastic. It’s essentially a self indulgent jam with the Prophet 6 and SH101. I think the piano was added as a little nod to the track ‘Mountain’ on my EP from last year. I actually recorded a wall of guitars for this one too, but only kept a couple quite low in the mix. I do refer to this one as ‘Ian’s tune’ as Ian Blackacre got excited like a child in a sweet shoop when I first played it to him, so this one’s for him!

4. Everyone

This is probably my favourite track on the album, at the time I was getting ready for a band show in Bristol in 2015 and wanted to test out a chorus pedal I got for the bass guitar. A few hours later and the tune was pretty much finished and as it is on the album. I used bass guitar for melodic parts a lot back when I started on tracks like ‘Lounge’ and the collaboration with Clubroot ‘Unharmed’, so it felt nice to have something like this again on the album. All the synths and fx were recorded live in 1 take, and I really think that gives the track a quality that really resonates with me.

5. Together

This one has been around a while and was made in the same 48 hours as The Mist and Last Goodbye. I think it definitely is the closest thing to some of my better known older tracks, but I really like the fact that it’s full of live synths and guitars and aside from the drums, software wasn’t really used for any of it. I really love how the main Mono/Poly synth riff and guitar melody play off the chorused 101 synth melody which is introduced as the track progresses. It’s one of those tracks where the overall production has caused me a lot of grief, but compositionally I’m really happy with it.

6. Last Goodbye

This is just a couple of simple piano parts, which I recorded separately. Originally I added a lot of additional parts and background noise, but I decided to strip it back to just the piano and fight my natural urge to just keep adding stuff to tracks and killing the essence of the idea. Whilst I didn’t make it with a particular feeling in mind, once it was done I realised that it painted a picture in my mind of interactions you have with people without realising at the time that it would be your last.

7. Galaxies

The original core of the track was made very quickly, when I was having a rather shameless nostalgiac work out in the studio. I couldn’t resist adding a few layers of ‘Top Gun’ guitar and extra synths. I think this might be one of the rare tracks where everything in my studio is featured on it. In a similar way to Icarus, this one is also known as ‘Eva’s tune’, as Eva Blackacre always rated this one, and I probably wouldn’t have finished it off without the enthusiasm from her.

8. Dots

This is essentially me playing around with driving the input on a tape machine until the synth starts to break up. One thing I get the most from people is ‘why don’t you make music for film/computer games/adverts’, and I think when I made it it was slightly tongue in cheek as a result of that, but I do really like how it creates a moment to take a breath in the tracklisting before the final two tracks.

9. The Mist

Definitely another one of my favourites, and whilst it’s probably not one of the obvious tracks to include on the album, I knew since I made it that it was going on. In a similar way to Together, it’s all outboard synths and guitars recorded live with no editing. The main focal point is the delays and reverbs on the rimshot, which again was all recorded live through a range of delays and reverb pedals, though literally one hit at a time. Whilst I don’t make a lot of 140bpm stuff these days, I’ll always love making tracks like this one.

10. Empty Jar

I wasn’t in a great space when I made this, I’d had a very frustrating few years of trying to work with a label, and I knew at this point that it wasn’t going to pan out, and I felt that despite giving it my best effort, I was exhausted and had nothing left to give creatively, hence the title. So at this point I just set up a microphone and improvised several guitar takes, which are all as they are on the album. There was no planning, I just kept recording layers of classical guitar to a click track, then added a few live takes of electric guitar which is doing all the pads and melodies that come in later in the song. It also made me realise how hard it is to try and play a shaker in time for 6 minutes. Whilst I had Will Memotone in the studio to record parts for Oceans, I got him to just follow the progression of the track which definitely added to the dynamics. For me it was a great way to end the album sonically, and also to serve as a reminder to myself that no matter how low we can sometimes feel in life, we can only try our best to battle through those times and come out the other side stronger for the experience.

Featured Image: Timothy Jones

Lost Time is out September 8 on Undertow. Order it here.

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