Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Phoenix Foundation/Fandango Review



The Phoenix Foundation

Fandango

(Memphis Industries)


‘Fandango’ is the 5th album from New Zealand based (and current six piece) The Phoenix Foundation. The ever revolving door of musicians expanding once again for these sessions with drummer Chris O’Connor joining the fold after long term member Richie Singleton’s recent departure to pursue environmental work (who said Rock and Rollers were all selfish toe-rags?). The first thing you notice about this album over the majority of releases is the fact that this is an album that provides the listener with a lot of bang for their buck! Firstly the length, at 80 minutes long you’re definitely getting a piece of work from the band that wasn’t simply cobbled together in the hope of getting some download hits before festival season started, this is a magnum opus in the truest sense! It does demand a certain level of discipline from the listener, especially those used to the 3 minute single download of the iTunes generation and wouldn’t have the patience for a 17 minute individual track (‘Friendly Society’), but for those who remember the days of double vinyl and indeed a bit of Proggy outlandishness it’s a worthwhile pursuit and an easy way to shut off the daily grind and allow your mind to turn of, relax and float downstream.

A confident effort with nods to The Flaming Lips, David Bowie and Luke Steele weaved throughout the songs manage to blend guitars and synthesizers in equal measure without sounding contrived or over trendy. The group manage to produce something here that manages to keep accessible while never sounding boring or obvious. The song ‘Morning Riff’ which manages to throw slow funk, electronica and an almost Zappa like finger knotting riff and time signature into the mix while keeping the groove throughout is another gem hidden mid way through. Each track warrants its own inclusion and keeps and even flow throughout listing wise. The first track ‘Black Mould’ is placed as the opener which provides an almost sonic shot across the bow to get an immediate ‘win’ straight out of the box, although by getting one of the most recognised songs on the album out of the way first it then draws you in immediately and prepares you for the journey that awaits you. The album continues with the more refined folky ‘Modern Rock’ and the already pre-released ‘The Captain’.

Phrases like ‘Krautrock’ and ‘Synthpop’ can get thrown about easily enough when describing the music on offer here (and with tracks like ‘Walls’ owing more than a germ or ten to Bowie’s Berlin period especially ‘Sound and Vision’ it’s understood) although scratch a little further and Folk exploration and good ol’ fashioned POP are evident within the invisible digital grooves. Looking at it as a complete piece there could be an argument that some trimming could have been done and the less impressive tracks been ditched altogether but then again people have discussed ‘The White Album’ as another contender in these types of debates also. Personally I think you need to take it as it is and enjoy it as a big meal rather than a snack. It’s good to see a band that likes to push the envelope and write outside the confines of the norm while still keeping their eyes on the prize and making something that the listener will actually enjoy listening to without scratching their head and mumbling something about the music being ‘challenging’. It’s not an effort. It’s a pure joy.


Release Date: 29th APRIL 2013
http://www.thephoenixfoundation.co.nz/fandango/

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