Monday, November 14, 2016

Phantom Phunk - Arboles Ossific

Phantom Phunk - Arboles Ossific 

Phantom Phunk have landed on the national music scene with Arboles Ossific, a highly individual and willfully independent musical effort that challenges listener’s expectations while never failing to entertain those willing to stick with its numerous twists and turns. The band has only been together since 2014 when songwriters and longtime friends Sasha Cheine and Hector Alexander convened to flesh out songwriting ideas and decided to begin working on this project in earnest. They soon realized that their collaboration was blossoming to a point where recruiting sympathetic collaborators became a must and, after a brief search, rounded out the lineup with drummer Nick Emiliozzi and guitarist Juan Gonzalez. Their work writing and assembling this release has produced a wildly eclectic outing that takes on too much for its own good but, shockingly, never makes a single misstep.  

“Snowy in Florida” touches on the recent mass shooting in the Orlando area but never in a heavy-handed way. This is much more of an emotional reaction to the world we unfortunately inhabit today given shape in song and the highly musical cacophony of changes packed into a relatively small space never overwhelms the listener. They know how to alternate moods on this album and the second song “Sip of Wine” is proof. This is a dream-like and exquisitely woven piece relying much more on subtlety that instrumental prowess to deliver its romantic sentiments. The album’s first single, “The Unheard Spirit Symphony”, would have made an excellent album title and the track clearly is geared towards airplay without ever sounding overly calculated or dishonest. The uptempo rush of its charging rhythm section and guitar work perfectly matches Sasha Cheine’s vocals.

“Looping” has a slightly disjointed feel at first, but the song quickly makes its musical intentions clear and excels further on the back of another quality Cheine vocal. They once again show their skill at manipulating the audience’s attention with its follow up, “Brother’s Keeper”, which recalls the earlier track “Sip of Wine” with its invoking of a delicate mood, even if the mood here is considerably bleaker than before. They take another slightly surprising turn with the instrumental “Distant Kaleidoscopes” and it gives listeners an opportunity to hear their melodic talents in full view without the added distraction of vocals and lyrics. The second to last song on the album, and for all intents and purposes its climax, “Tommy’s Cosmic Avocado” is a long musical piece that moves through a variety of atmospheres and moods that never lose their coherence despite the long duration.  

Phantom Phunk seem to be bursting with ideas and energy and undoubtedly this supplies their debut with many of its surprises. This is relentlessly optimistic music in some ways. Phantom Phunk are clearly a collective of musicians who believe nothing is beyond their grasp and, even if some songs deal with heavier subject matter, they clearly position their songwriting as a strike back against settling for second best. This is a band that’s aiming for the highest peaks they can find. 

9 out of 10 stars. 

Dale Butcher

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