Phantom Phunk - Arboles Ossific
Arboles Ossific Album review published by newsroom.indiemunity.com November 14 2016. Written by Cyrus Rhodes an independent music journalist who writes for Indiemunity, among other publications. Indiemunity is an Australian owned music website sharing great music worldwide.
Formed by songwriters and longtime friends Harold Alexander and Sasha Cheine, the South Florida headquartered four piece Phantom Phunk are easily one of the most eclectic outfits to appear on the indie music scene in recent memory. Their first release, the ten song Arboles Ossific, reveals a young band with dizzying ambitions. This isn’t a surprise. Many youthful outfits give priority to trying to write and record a “classic” that will break them through and give voice to their dreams of musical notoriety. Phantom Phunk, however, are clearly not in this world for hosannas and accolades. Moreover, they have the chops and songwriting prowess to realize every goal they set for themselves on this release and never sound uncomfortable doing it. There are few false notes or stumbles over the course of Arboles Ossific but, while the material was reportedly worked on and refined over the band first year and a half of existence before entering the studio to record their first album, there’s little doubt that it showed this promise from the start.
This is a band that doesn’t play to preconceptions. Any listeners might possess are tossed out with great force by the opener “Snowy in Florida”. Writing as South Florida residents gives this artistic reflection the mass shootings plaguing American society gives this first track added resonance. The music has a herky-jerky quality thanks to time signature moves that the band makes during the song, but it never becomes too much to deal with. “Sip of Wine” is a much more traditional song and has a surprisingly sensitive line of attack. The poetic qualities of the lyric are well suited for one of the band’s most nuanced arrangements. “Sip of Wine” is never in any hurry and the considered development of the song gives listeners a chance to really latch into its mood and feel the performance affect them through and through. “The Unheard Spirit Symphony” re-engages with the band’s progressive penchant but frames those tendencies in a much more pop-oriented, mainstream context. It is easy to lose this in the creative shuffle of Arboles Ossific, but “The Unheard Spirit Symphony” highlights the band’s skill at composing great melodies that don’t sound overly familiar or else outright cribbed from other sources.
“Brother’s Keeper”, similar to the aforementioned “Sip of Wine”, explores more personal depths to the band’s songwriting than its more pronounced progressive tracks. It has a darker hue however, thanks to the sparse lyrical content that, nonetheless, paints a compelling picture with few words. Phantom Phunk’s talent for making deeply felt songs seem superficially “simple” helps the songwriting achieve a level of accessibility that other bands of their ilk too often lack. The instrumental “Distant Kaleidoscopes” opens with some spartan piano lines before the drums and bass open with a slinking groove that the guitar fills in with ear-catching half formed phrases that interestingly never seem to resolve themselves. The progressive inclination of the band rise to the fore again here thanks to the tempo shifts that they flawlessly execute.
The two songs ending the album, however, are probably the band at their most daring. “Tommy’s Cosmic Avocado” is improbably titled, perhaps, but the gaudy name really has no ultimate bearing on the song’s quality. This is what Phantom Phunk sounds like in full on mind-movie mode and this extended piece never takes any chances that lead to self-indulgence; instead, everything here hangs together quite well and every decision serves some ultimate purpose. The last track, “Jungle Crunch”, ends Arboles Ossific on a remarkably daring note. It’s like the band looked back over the songs preceding and decided to rouse their listeners from thinking the exit from this album would be any different than its audacious beginning. Phantom Phunk are brilliant, restless, and their desire to push the envelope carries listeners to lands they likely never expect when they play the album for the first time.
9 out of 10 stars.