Phantom Phunk - Arboles Ossific
You haven’t heard anything like this in 2016 and likely won’t again until the band decides to release another album. Phantom Phunk are inhabiting a corner of the musical universe that is all their own, boasting obvious influences, but never sounding imitative and transmuting those influences into music and lyrical content that turns longstanding formulas on their head through the creative use of music and fresh imagery. The assortment of tropes, clichés, and misguided attempts for radio play that mark albums from similarly minded peers pale in comparison to the freewheeling creativity on this release. Phantom Phunk come out of the gates roaring on Arboles Ossific and never look back as they sweep the listeners through different sides of a wide-spanning musical imagination that irrepressibly takes flight.
It is impossible to deny the energy packed inside “Snowy in Florida”. The song doesn’t overstay its welcome, but in the relatively brief time it is playing, Phantom Phunk throws everything but the kitchen sink at listeners with structure, attitude, and a head-down determination to perform their music in the most idiosyncratic way possible. Many of the changes come when the band seemingly stops on a dime and moves in a completely different direction without missing a beat and, while the lyrical content might be a little brief, the combination of its few words and the media clips embedded into the arrangement firmly place it in the progressive category. “The Unheard Spirit Symphony” has much of the same commitment to challenging the listener, but the band’s musical attack is always geared towards entertaining the listener whilst still satisfying the artists’ creative needs. “Gateways” strips the band’s rock attack down to its kinetic and spartan best with a simple, insistent tempo and sparking guitar lines that never overreach.
“Hey There” has a similar slant to “Gateways” but is much more solidly traditional than its earlier counterpart. The band is clearly grasping for a classic rock vibe here and achieves it without ever sounding too studied or self-conscious. The muted and gray beauty of “brother’s Keeper” musically embodies the lyrical mood and, while the words aren’t that long, they show the same taste and sophistication to put every line on trial and eliminate any unneeded verbiage. Arboles Ossific’s only instrumental “Distant Kaleidoscopes” has a soft peddled psychedelic edge and melodic virtues that are more obvious here than in some of the album’s more progressively slanted songs. It is paired wonderfully with its follow-up “Tommy’s Cosmic Avocado”, an extended musical piece that has obvious progressive inclinations while still making excellent use of dynamics and the fundamentals of song construction. The album concludes with “Jungle Crunch”, a wildly improbable musical ride that even goes so far as to find room for rap music under its tent.
Phantom Phunk’s Arboles Ossific goes places you wouldn’t expect and does so with a ease that surely belies the considerable work that went into making this project a reality. This talented four piece band presents its audience with a large variety of moods and never fails to bring them both intellectual stimulation and a true sense of entertainment that is, ultimately, the hallmark of any great release.
9 out of 10 stars.