A refreshing, unusual and diverting debut record.
Lou Thomas 2009-09-11
It would be lazy to dub New York state pair Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter '2009’s Chairlift', but the similarities are there for all to hear. Both groups have a neat line in minimal beats, occasionally psychedelic electro-indie art strangeness, lush beds of synthesizer and enticing female vocals.
But Phantogram’s greater willingness to embrace the experimental and a few different influences mark the newer band out as being an odder but equally exciting proposition. Keyboardist Carter has said Serge Gainsbourg and hip hop inspire the duo’s sound and these can both be heard on this potent debut.
Single Running from the Cops trips along like Portishead and DJ Shadow sparring over dark static and Carter’s bizarre, mistreated mumble, and Let Me Go is a wanton blend of ardour and machinery which sounds like drunken robots walking arm in arm down the Champs-Élysées.
When musicians throw ideas and textures together in an innovative fashion quality will occasionally drop, as it does on Bloody Palms. Indecision over whether to make abstract hip hop or Battles-style avant-pop leaves the song not quite working as either.
Eyelid Movies’ finest moments are when Barthel is allowed to fully utilise her voice. As Far As I Can See, the album’s standout track, is an incredible electro-soul slacker anthem which expertly blends cut-up brassy samples, thudding loops and exquisite, honeyed singing. Final track 10,000 Claps is as good, if completely different, and brilliantly incongruous – maudlin piano and a timbre more at home on a Sparklehorse record combine effectively with Barthel now affecting an alt-folk lilt.
A refreshing, unusual and diverting first record from two new talents, then, and one to recommend for jaded electro and indie fans who felt the New York scene had gone as far as it could with art-skronk.