Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Kind'va shame that I sent in my end-of-year fave/top ten charts just a few days before I heard this, otherwise The Phantom Family Halo would've been in there no problem. A coupla minutes into listening to the opening track, the hairs on the back of my neck suddenly went up like a terrier's tail...hard to describe this, really: it feels like it might be a concept album, but don't ask me what the hell that concept might be...

The title track has a strangely catchy descending piano-motif wh/ feels like it's taking the listener downstairs to look at something...something strange, but extremely important. "Black Six will show you the light," sings the vocalist and I certainly ain't gonna contradict him, as queasy swirls of echo'd noise suddenly lead us out from a lost, lop-sided Glam-Psych Pop Nugget into the outer reaches of the cosmos...echo-decks spin back on themselves as the planets shoot past us at colossal speeds; there's an early seventies Kraut-flava'd Deep Space rumble goin' on, somewhere out near the rings of Saturn; this is some serious Kosmische stylings these guys've tapped into...a few minutes into this, some plodding percussives and woozy vocals emerge from the mix, sounding like David Essex covering Spirit in the style of early Residents... there's a sense of quaa-delude'd Syd style melancholy hovering over the proceedings. And when the singer sings "When do we go home/And be alone with me?/At home, at home.../You shouldn't wait for the sun to wake/'Cause it'll never be, never be..." it breaks my fucking heart.

"Broken by the Way" is puuuure Acid Garage-Punk; a "Louie Louie" for the MySpace generation; a dumb geetar riff, howling backing vocals...jeez, but I wish I could think what it reminds me fact, there's an element of Ariel Pink about this album (but without the wilful smears of fake radio hiss): it seems to hint at false pasts, at red herring histories that never actually happened...I'm hearing dim echoes of old Alice Cooper records, Cockney Rebel, Ziggy Stardust, Ash-Ra Tempel...but rewired into unexpected configurations.

"Black River" has a Can-ish vibe, a relaxed Lieberzeit drum-pulse, like, I dunno "Mother Sky" played on a pub piano after one too many beers; nice'n loosely relaxed. Those rim-shots and the Czukay bass figures are sooo on the number...

"Lady Blue" is a lazy, languid Tyrannosaurus Rex lope thru the woods; The Sky Green Leopards, but w/out the sonic clutter. Utterly fucking fabulous...

My total favourite is "Saving Civilisation as We Know It"; it's got a touch of maybe early Hawkwind about it too, but slower, sludgier and mixed in w/ something that sounds like an out-take from Eno's "Here Come The Warm Jets"...not as weird a combo as it sounds: after all, didn't Paul Rudolph and Simon King of HW play on HCTWJ...? Vocals by some weird hybrid of St. Brian de la Salle and Bob Calvert. It's so fantastically catchy that it shoulda been strangled at birth...with a middle section that sounds like a cross between one of Pere Ubu's factory-destroying mid-song wig-outs and a twentysomething Eno shagging his VCS3, while Phil Manzanera and Mott's Ariel Bender fail to agree who's actually playing the guitar solo and the whole thing ends in a bad-tempered ruck. Worth buying the LP just for this alone.

"Electric God in Your Galaxy" also has a Bolan-ish vibe; this time with lots of tamborines and Tony Visconti conducting a drugged-up chamber string-section on a nearby hill.

Needless to say, this record has been burning a hole in my turntable. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Fucking love it...

Thanks to Dominic (aka Dahm) from the band for taking the time out to answer my feverish fanboy enquiries.

Yeah, so how long you guys been together...

D: "Me and Michael Mcmahan have been playing in bands together for about 13 years...this incarnation has been together for almost 2 years."

Picking up all sorts of Psych, Glam and Kraut vibes in there: hearing some Bolan (and Bowie) touches....Roxy/1st Couple solo Eno albums...dunno if I'm even remotely near where you're coming from..

D: "Yes very influenced by a lot of those things...I love Faust...Scott Walker is a huge influence, Can, Amon Duul..."

Interested in how you ended up with the sound you got...was there any specific plan to go in any particular direction or did you just have a bunch of songs you wanted to record....?

D: "I recorded it at my house with my 8 track, they were songs I had been putting together for probably over a year. I have about 4 records more of material; it is a very simple process (the recording)...I like to keep it real basic, I also like to get close to an old sound...I like to imagine it came out in 73..."

(At the mention of '73 my hair turned into a miniature 3D sculpture of David Lee Roth and went white, as I actually recieved this email, no jive, a couple hours after I wrote this.)

Have you got any other records/CDs out....?

D: "No this all for now. The CD version will be coming out on Cold Sweat Records out of Los Angeles. I think it comes out in March: it will have 2 extra songs..."

I see ya got another band - (the fab) Dead Child - with David Pajo (from Slint)....that's a Metal kinda deal....are we talking 70s Metal here? You a fan of that stuff by any chance...?

D: "Yes, I grew up on a lot of it. We are having fun: it's in the tradition of Budgie, Venom, old early 80's/late 70's Metal...the EP comes out in February, also on Cold Sweat. I also play in a group called Sapat...we have a record coming out on Siltbreeze in January...we are like a Sun Ra meets Amon Duul scene..."

If you're confused, then there's a family tree, of sorts, here. But check the PFH album, for sure...


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