The name Phran might not sound familiar, but by no means is he a stranger. Francisco Mejía used to be part of the quintessential and highly-influential Venezuelan indietronica band Todosantos. He also used to work under the Pacheko moniker, as one of the people involved in the internationalization of changa tuki, the Caracas-bred electronic music style. He’s also released music through labels like Enchufada.
But Mejía is restless and always eager to experiment with new things. That’s why his new alias, Phran, not only represents a change name-wise, but also in terms of sound and style. He just released 3000 Modes, his second EP with Berlin imprint Klasse Recordings, following his 2014 EP Bad Format. It’s comprised of four original tracks and a remix, and it’s surprising how he managed to make this such a diverse listen while maintaining absolute coherence. Long gone are the frantic party sounds of changa tuki, or even the deep sub-basses he perfected when he used to make dubstep. This is something else.
Opener “Basical” starts off with samples of a guy speaking French, along with some conga slaps and vinyl distortion. It quickly turns into a tropical house track, but definitely not a tropical cliché. Instead, it has a darker atmosphere and more minimal sound. In this song (and throughout the EP), he uses melodic and harmonic elements sparingly, focusing primarily on rhythm. But when those elements appear, they really add a special quality to the mix. “Alberca” is probably the one track that doesn’t spare in melody, courtesy of a rippling arpeggiated synth line that runs through most of the song over a hip-hop beat. It also features his weapon of choice: distortion. The bass elements are cranked up and heavily limited, so they saturate the spectrum with rich harmonics.
But his stellar saturation performance comes in the form of “Ayoo.” He slowly cranks up the distortion until the kick drum and percussion hits start to sound musical. The beat remains the star for almost two thirds of the song, when he introduces a chord progression that’s reminiscent of the 80s. Right at the end, he brings house back with the tremendously classy “Hand Prints,” led by a fantastic, wonky bass line and a static harp and flute sample. Not even the remix, made by Samo DJ and Baba Stiltz, breaks the EP’s coherence. The eight-minute rework also stands on house grounds and keeps most of the track’s original elements.
3000 Modes is a spectacular display of Phran’s ability to work with sound. It’s already impressive how he crafted the elements, structure, and dynamics of these four tracks, but the way he manipulates the sound characteristics and timbre is what will set him apart.