Phantom Phunk – Arboles Ossific
The debut album from Phantom Phunk, Arboles Ossific, is an energetic and wildly arranged musical journey. These four musicians from the Tampa, Florida area first formed in 2014 around the core of Sasha Cheine and Hector Alexander, two longtime friends and songwriters with creative vision to burn. They soon teamed with Juan Gonzalez and drummer Nick Emiliozzi on drums to form the current incarnation then locked themselves into working up and refining the material heard on this first album. It is an incredible ten song collection that rarely misses the mark and, instead, achieves much thanks to its confluence of artistic daring, a refusal to play by conventional rules, and their wide ranging skill set. The production, handled by the band themselves, gives the music an excellent forum to get over with listeners and it succeeds at nearly every turn.
“Snowy in Florida” opens the album in shocking fashion. This is a full stop instrumental workout par excellence that sonically documents the band’s reaction to mass shootings. The brief lyric succeeds despite its brevity thanks to the image referred to in the title. The players careen in a controlled fashion through a series of dexterous changes and never lose their way. The rhythm section guides the way with elastic music while Juan Gonzalez’s guitar combs through a variety of textures over the top. Sasha Cheine handles the bulk of the song’s singing chores with Hector Alexander providing backing vocals. “Sip of Wine”, Arboles Ossific’s second song, is a dramatic change from the opener. This is an out-and-out love song but, in Phantom Phunk’s hands, love songs become atmospheric and frequently poetic invocations of desire hinging on unusual and individual imagery. The album’s more obviously personal songs have a deft touch with making the personal universal and this isn’t often encountered.
One of the album’s key tracks comes with “The Unheard Spirit Symphony”. Written by Cheine and Erica Goldman, this is a different sort of love song from the preceding “Sip of Wine”. It has a wider scope and takes in the natural struggles of attempting to be responsive to the needs of another. The uptempo arrangement features a powerful rhythm section performance and aggressively slashing guitar work. The band does a great job on songs like this of artfully dragging their listeners to the edge of chaos but never tipping over. “Looping” has a musical feel that lightly mimics its title. Another inventive arrangement showcases the band’s creativity, but listeners can never begrudge their accomplishments because it isn’t too clever by a half, but rather serves clear purposes throughout. “Brother’s Keeper”, like the earlier “Sip of Wine”, has a tangible personal edge to the song that sets it apart from the surrounding tracks, but follows the earlier design as well by investing this personal reflection with general imagery that virtually any listener will relate to.
The album’s longest track “Tommy’s Cosmic Avocado” never sinks under the weight of its running time but, instead, seems to grow stronger as the track progresses. Another important part of the song’s success is the band’s chemistry. It keeps things popping in a compelling way long into the track and the genuine enthusiasm of their performance is impossible to miss. It is the same enthusiasm that fuels the entirety of this release. Arboles Ossific sets the bar extraordinarily high for future Phantom Phunk releases, but it’s easy to believe after hearing this album that they will clear that bar with room to spare.
8 out of 10 stars.