PHANTOM PHUNK - ARBOLES OSSIFIC
Album review published in Indie Music Review
Wednesday December 28 2016
By Shannon Cowden
Few albums released in 2016 show off diversity and sure-footed command of multiple musical styles like the debut from Tampa, Florida based quartet Phantom Phunk. These four young musical veterans are quite accomplished players who move between instruments with a fluency that recalls some iconic past outfits, i.e. The Band, while carving out a sonic identity that couldn’t be more different.
Their skill level translates into ten songs that bubble over with absolute fearlessness and the confidence to pull it off. The predominant modes that the band works in are alternative and progressive rock, but neither label should prompt you to lump them in with nineties acts or bygone progressive giants.
There are retro tendencies on some songs that are carried off with genuine gusto and originality, but the band takes their template to places listeners will be agog that they travel to. The truest label one can apply to this music, if they insist on naming it, is art rock, but even that fails to encapsulate what they pull off on their first album Arboles Ossific.
It is obvious we’ve crossed over to a new land based on the first song alone. Snowy in Florida has rather sparse lyrical content, but it is anchored by a central image that is as startling as it is heartbreaking. The song has a raucous edge that will grab most listeners by the lapel and not let go with their restless tempo shifts, subtle melodic flair, and hard-hitting attack.
The Unheard Spirit Symphony has an interesting title that doesn’t, on its own, reveal much about the song, but once the track is well underway, it’s easy to understand that the band’s songwriters are willing to throw curveballs at the audience confident that the listeners gravitating to this release will be more than up to the challenge of either connecting the dots or else forming their own interpretation of the material.
Phantom Phunk shifts gears in an imaginative way with Gateways and also ramps up the stakes with one of the album’s best overall lyrics. The band doesn’t cheat the listen in any area of their presentation and the deceptively introspective text powering Sasha Cheine’s vocal has a vital mix of concrete imagery alongside broader, less specific musings, but if an astute listener takes the time to listen, all is revealed.
The brief Hey There has some of the album’s strongest melodic virtues near its beginning and soon transforms into a crackling rock song without losing any of its ability to lodge itself in a listener’s consciousness. The guitar, in particular, has a sharp, stylized bite thanks to the phasing effect accompanying it throughout the track’s duration.
Unquestionably, however, the album’s primary track is the eight minutes and change Tommy’s Cosmic Avocado. Don’t let the title fool you. This is, arguably, the album’s most substantive musical statement. There is a pronounced theatricality to the approach they take here, building this in some ways like a classic progressive epic, yet skewing the listener’s expectations with a variety of twists and turns.
The lyrical content is quite complementary to an arrangement that, despite its breadth, never overshadows the words. It’s that last sentence that, ultimately, defines Arboles Ossific. Every element is working together here in harmony and the seemingly disparate strains of the band’s influences are woven into a whole far greater than the sum of its individual parts.
8 out of 10 stars
Written by Shannon Cowden