n his seven years of making electronic music Tourist seems to have tried it all. Four EP’s, multiple singles, a 2015 Grammy for Sam Smith’s breakout single ‘Stay With Me’, an acclaimed live show, and now his third LP.
Philipps’ first use of the Tourist moniker was with 2012’s on-trend summer-synth production Placid Acid. Sounding very much like a less refined mash of MGMT and Empire of the Sun, it was the precursor to his initial self-titled EP in the same year.
The release of his second EP Tonight a year later saw him trend more towards an original sound, heavily reliant on stuttered and warped vocal samples with barely discernible lyrics. The pick of the bunch was I Have No Fear, the first indication of his intention to create emotionally influenced soundscapes. The acclaimed Patterns EP followed in 2014, along with the ever-popular single Holding On in 2015.
Phillips then reached his initial musical Zenith with the release of his sublime Debut Album U in 2016. Based around the narrative of Phillips’ own recent relationship, it was the culmination of all that had come prior. Of the album he said, “U is a shape that is balanced but also incomplete, I thought it was a nice visual metaphor for a failed relationship.”
His growth in production abilities, namely melody creation, allowed for his sampling technique to be better utilised and expressed. U’s often unexpected variance and linear narrative turned Phillips into one of 2016’s most unheralded success stories. Utilising a greater breadth of sound and beats, its more potent emotional depth allowed it to be suited to both live and intimate sessions. Following U, 2019’s Everyday took a subtler approach. Softer, more drawn out sounds, and an overload of chimes had Tourist headed down the more ambient route, to the dismay of some ardent fans and the delight of others.
With Wild, Phillips strives to attain some sort of happy sonic middle ground between his past two LP’s, while tightening up the project’s progression. The resulting LP is the most cohesive project Phillips has delivered, and while still melodic, it is infinitely more welcoming and palatable to the regular listener than Everyday.
With opening track And So, You Were! Tourist pays adequate homage to the music of his past. Abrupt synths, jittery fx, stuttered samples and just the right amount of piano welcome the listener to Phillips’ musical world. A seamless transition into Elixir follows. Itself a sprawling five-minute journey of self-realisation, and one of the year’s most captivating electronic songs, in the context of this LP it gains a new, more pointed reverence.
It is a mark of Phillips’ ability to date that he has managed to craft three free-standing LP’s. Attaining a level of cohesiveness alongside tracks worthy of individual merit is a task that eludes all but the best in any genre. Phillips does so in a manner which builds solidly on much of his past work, both sonically and thematically.
So, with its gravelly fx and John Hopkins esq second half, sounds very much like an early demo track from U. While Fiction follows the aforementioned other-worldly ethereal trend that Phillips establishes in the records first half. Think soundtrack from a nature documentary of a planet yet discovered.
In charting his journey of falling in love with music, Phillips pays homage to not just his own style, but the trappings of musical contemporaries who undoubtedly influenced his sound. The fingerprints of compatriot Jamie xx echo throughout, although Phillips still seems to act in deference to Jamie’s abilities, honouring but never attempting to plagiarise the rave honouring masterpieces Jamie delivers on In Colour. While he doesn’t quite replicate Jamie’s ability to craft the surreal, the use of unearthly soaring synths adds a brevity to this LP that otherwise would not have been achieved. The flow in the later tracks, particularly Wild and Kin, comes entirely from this almost boundless approach to crafting sound.
The music style in the second half on the record is perhaps best characterised by its mix of broken samples and chords, with a partially cinematic flair. A gorgeous ode to Hans Zimmer’s ‘Inception’ soundtrack seems evident on both So and Kin, delivered in an altogether more rapturous fashion.
Wild is sound, beautiful music, delivered in a risk averse fashion. Its main flaw is perhaps that it doesn’t quite go far enough, an issue almost entirely outweighed by its impeccable delivery. Closing track Together at the Centre of Creation reads like the harmonious antithesis to the album’s opener, although it regrettably sounds out of place. The one minor blight on an otherwise stellar LP.
Nothing on Wild sounds overly intrusive. The jilted unexpected tropes of Tourists early production days manifest throughout, although they remain infinitely more polished. Now three albums in, Phillips appears content continuing to probe his production and song writing capabilities. On Wild it becomes obvious that even he is not yet aware of where his limits lie, with that level of frightening potential, who knows what else is to come.
Final verdict - 7.4/10.
Technically brilliant and easy listening, that much needed flair of excitement is the only hurdle stopping me scoring Wild any higher.
Want to give the full album a well deserved listen? Check it out here.