One of the only good things that the international lockdown has done for music is invited artists and performers to experiment. It has allowed musicians and producers the time to branch out and try something new. In the case of Beth Alana, most will know the name from Techno shows around Berlin, or as the co-creator of the KANVAS.berlin project. On Phenomenon we find a skip in the step as influences of UK Garage emerge, amidst atmospheric Techno-influenced soundscapes.
Muffled background noise houses the small clicking of percussion. An unpretentious start to Phenomenal, as a solid kick drum is accompanied by ominous pads that swirl into the distance. After an unassuming beginning, Beth Alana wastes little time in enveloping the listener in a heaving garage-inspired rhythm. The background noise continues to spread timidly across the landscape of the track until fibrous notes extinguish the incidental noise. These notes reverberate sharply across the floor away from us. A voice finds us in the shroud of sound, desperate to be heard, to express how they are feeling, before its lost in the maelstrom of charged instrumentation. Beth Alana constructs the soundscape in a beautifully controlled way, the focus is pulled from the speech to the instrumentation seamlessly. It doesn’t delve too deep into that dark sound, the pads just teasing the track into eerie territory without overdoing it. The unrelenting machinations of the percussion do enough to insist that the artist’s focus is on rhythm more than atmosphere. This feeling is undoubtedly owed to Beth Alana’s experience with more Techno-centric sounds. But regardless of this leaning, she creates a track that is airy and heavy in equal measure.
An ode to a Berlin club comes next in the form of Farbfernseher. Sadly the former TV shop-turned-club was permanently closed in 2019, though the vigorous nature of the percussion Beth Alana sprays sounds intense enough to galvanise it to life again. A rapid, crisp rhythm plays out as a voice spits MC ad-libs over the top. Though instruments are introduced fairly abruptly, the track as a whole unfolds gradually, deep bass beginning to gnaw away at the track beginning to dictate its direction. As the percussion washes away momentarily, we can hear the two different bass tones vying for supremacy in the lower end of the track. These two instruments are pushed out abruptly as a nauseous sounding key sequence draws the listener’s focus and opens up the track a little more. However, the pounding infectiousness of Berlin soon takes over the track again and we are diced on repetitive beats and droning bass. The keys and bass do coalesce as we enter the last minutes of the track. Beth Alana toys with the percussion, scrubbing away the dirtier aspects of it, only to lather them back on after a few bars.
Though Lovebird begins with the same harsh stalactite drum work as the two tracks previously, a warmer hue begins to emerge as the track works into its rhythm. Grimy bass is pinned down under a low pass filter. This hunkering down of the majority of sounds into the low end allows the beautifully played keys to soothe the track. A soulful vocal sample appears as well, the residual sound of which dissipates into sibilant echo. Though the track is more sonically pleasing with warmer instrumentation, that undercurrent of bass does keep things pulsing with energy. Tightly wound organ notes stab through the swelling instrumentation, their delivery stressed, but the crisp reverb serving to expand the space the listener occupies. The track is a tuneful salve to the previous two track’s more dark atmospheres.
Each track on Phenomenon conveys a different mood. Though moods in electronic music can often be shrouded by the infectious aspect of rhythm, Beth Alana is still successful in conveying a separate and standalone feeling from track to track. This is through the use of sparse and interjecting melody and intricately engineered percussion, both elements are employed to set a scene as well as keep the listener moving.