Pitchfork – After…
“Opera singer and frequent collaborator Pia Ercole, whose vocal is a fixture of the Fhloston Paradigm releases, reprises her role as the voice of God. Connecting AFTER… to The Phoenix with the album’s second track, “…LIFE,” she introduces a new direction that hones in on the dexterity of each singer instead of burying them in ambient melody.”
Pitchfork album review by Karas Lamb:
On his latest album as Fhloston Paradigm, the renowned Philadelphia-bred DJ and producer King Britt realizes his most adventurous and dynamic self. In the wake of 2016’s 20-year-anniversary show for his legendary group Sylk 130—itself a precursor to neo-soul—Britt closes the book on his earliest endeavors by traveling deeper into space. The 2014 Fhloston Paradigm debut The Phoenix married analog synths, opera, and electronic music for a solid departure from his previous forays into acid jazz, house, and dance music. With AFTER…, Fhloston Paradigm breaks away from the vehicle that inspired his moniker—the 1997 Luc Besson film The Fifth Element—and the mad scientist aesthetic of his earlier work. He hits his artistic stride with a more focused and polished version of the out Fhloston sound.
As important as the unification of genres on AFTER…, then, is the honesty at the core of the album. Playing to his strengths as a selector and composer, Fhloston Paradigm trades rave nostalgia and experimental noodling for a well-balanced marriage of the melodic expertise, emotion, and appetite for the unknown that live across his vast catalog. He does this without ego or exposition. He does it with a deft hand and a decent amount of vulnerability. The result is a release that speaks as clearly to his futurist leanings and creative maturation as it does the jive, groove, and gut-wrenching emotion endemic to Black American music.
Three years removed from Fhloston Paradigm’s Hyperdub debut, AFTER… takes a measured step away from experimental music to embrace something closer to spiritual trance—something decidedly more personal. Lead single “…MATH” is a prolonged statement of peace. The composition recalls the Eastern breathing tradition of pranayama—the practice of regulating and extending the breath—with its respect for space and the cyclical emergence of light. Breaking open the physical form of AFTER… illuminates a life force; a beating, techno-inflected heart is quickly established as the core of the entire project.
Opera singer and frequent collaborator Pia Ercole, whose vocal is a fixture of the Fhloston Paradigm releases, reprises her role as the voice of God. Connecting AFTER… to The Phoenix with the album’s second track, “…LIFE,” she introduces a new direction that hones in on the dexterity of each singer instead of burying them in ambient melody.
On the Nosaj Thing-assisted “…THE HEARTBREAK,” electro-pop singer Kate Faust offers a stylistic nod to the ululations of women in mourning and labor—both experiences that push the soul beyond the physical body.
The album has a thematic preoccupation with the nuance of the female range—one of the pillars of soulful house music, and a clear nod to Britt’s earlier projects, including the seminal King Britt Presents Sylk 130 – When The Funk Hits The Fan. In this case, however, the vocals are as primal as they are tender, operatic moments referential of weepy spirituals and Fhloston’s original muse, Diva Plavalaguna—the statuesque opera singer from The Fifth Element. At about the halfway point, though, the technique of layering vocals to an atmospheric end starts to feel overdone.
Where the lack of discernable lyrics on AFTER… could prove frustrating, the ambiguity seems to ask, “What is language after life?” And in a realm where communication is much less literal, AFTER… suggests spiritual ascension might be achieved through sonic exploration, in lieu of a certain messiah. The Moor Mother-assisted “…ALL” is a brooding, bottom-heavy exercise in raw, polyrhythmic electricity; it conjures ghosts and gives voice to clear and present danger. Puerto Rican Space Program’s album closer “…HOURS” counters that darkness with temple bells and sharp statements that expand and contract at different frequencies against ample bass. It is a prayer punctuated by found sounds and holy tones, affirming ancient traditions and extolling the virtues of life on other planes.
Taken as a sincere meditation, AFTER… suggests that Britt began the project with his own mortality in mind. In it, he revisits and reckons with the unfinished pieces of himself. In the tradition of Kintsugi—the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with precious metals, honoring pieces of pottery instead of discarding them—he gathers scraps of compelling ideas, fleshes them out, and repairs them with gold. Britt has reassembled the very best bits of his past lives as a writhing body electric. Though his previous journeys netted no major losses, Fhloston Paradigm finds itself in AFTER… and finally takes flight.