Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon "The trees, the sea in a lunar stream"
The Trees, The Sea In A Lunar Stream is a muted, subtle album from Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon, a duo of Aaron
Hurley and Scott McLaughlin. It's such a lovely piece of work that I'm going to invent a new genre, 'folk-gaze',
for it: the music has that faraway glide of shoegazing at its best, but the guitars and strings derive from
contemporary folk experimentation. It's wrapped within leaves of dronish modernity and tied together with high,
chiming vocals; the whole thing then goes supernova on the climax, 'Halloween'. Marvellous.
Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon are an Irish duo of Aaron Hurley and Scott McLaughlin, whose "The Trees, The Sea in a
Lunar Stream" is a haunting and at times quite beautiful collection of avant-folk compositions, which distil modern
folk, shoegaze, drone and laid-back jazz backdrops into a heady and intriguing infusion. Reminiscent by turn of
Nick Drake, introspective Neil Young, Satie, Sigur Ros, the more serene end of the Incredible String Band's catalogue,
and early Kate Bush, these eerie and ethereal soundscapes, often sung in a high pitched and tremulous voice, stand up
well whatever the comparisons. "The Trees..." is consistently good throughout and worth checking out, particularly for
the slow-burningly stupendous show-closer, "Halloween".
It's been six years since the release of the first album by Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon on Deserted Village in 2004. There is little surprise for me that this follow up charts a significant growth in the project's music. The recruitment of Scott McLaughlin as a permanent second band member has certainly contributed to this, as the ghostly and dark singer/songwriter folk has been enriched with a broader instrumentarium and more varied compositions.
This is showcased perfectly in the first four tracks. "As Perceived by Mice" lays a nice flowing base with piano and guitar, and Aaron Hurley's trademark high voice, still pleasantly reminiscent of Thom Yorke here and there. The beautiful "Poems" is very intimate and subtle, weaving soft guitar lines with swooping cello and delicate touches of glockenspiel and music box. "Stealing Owls" and "Hide and Seek" introduce Barry Hurley on drums, lending these tracks a stronger rhythmic touch, bordering on subtle psych rock here and there, particularly in the last track's harpsichord sections.
The second half of the album holds more good things; The fifth and seventh track are simple and stylish guitar songs in the band's original vein, while "A Shimmering Clown" is a darkly beautiful soundscape with distant, sorrowful vocals. The closer, "Halloween", is equally excellent, with a superb development and crashing rock ending.
The edges are rough, which can be expected from an underground project like this. But look past that, and you've got a
beautiful, honest and highly original album, lovingly released and handmade by Rusted Rail. Another gem from Ireland,
highly recommended to dark folk lovers.
The band - Aaron Hurley (vocals/guitar) and Scott McLaughlin (multi-instrumentalist) - have created an album
that is haunting, ethereal, atmospheric, personal, and challenging.
It is clear Talk Talk's minimalist masterpiece Laughing Stock is a powerful influence on the band. However PDBTM are no mere copyists.
Instead the music they love, Talk Talk, Radiohead, and My Bloody Valentine,
has encouraged them - and Aaron in particular - to be brave in their songwriting, to use music as a way of navigating
and exploring a personal inner world of sound, expression, and reflection, and realising that through the voice and the medium of song.
Taking such a course inevitably produces music that is individual and firmly in the avant-folk/undergound realm. Standout tracks are opener
'As Perceived By Mice', 'Stealing Owls', and the majestic 'Two Hours after Dusk', distinguished by its descending piano riff.
Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon return with their second for Rusted Rail, this time a long-player coming in at an
eerie 50 minutes on the nose. 'The Trees, the Sea in a Lunar Stream' is a novella of eight proper songs,
agreeing entirely with their previous EP 'Through a Forest Only'. Still the pair of Scott McLaughlin and
Aaron Hurley (with a few guests scattered here and there), the latter's voice growing more in richness like
a melancholic Simply Red (yeah I just made a fucking Simply Red reference), the former's combination of timbres
to achieve the transference of Mercury Rev, and the pair together evoking the impossibly-melodic genome of
Micah P. Hinson for overall ease with orchestration. There is no fat to speak of among the tracks; each offers
a distinct theme and persona which is at worst charmingly-executed. Thus standouts aren't easy to peg, so here's
a tour of the boundaries: "Hide and Seek", like the plaintive ballads of Clinic, features a stripped yet
convoluted beat under dubby rhythm, spooked falsetto, and a (and this is the give-away) harmonica like wheeze
troubling the gauzy high like a migraine. "Ellipse of a Forrest Walk" recalls the moody soft-rock of Tram for
its gentle let down and earnest delivery, and at times verging the melodic achievements of Odawas, its incomplete
guitar loop starting again like some eternal return of the bummer. Comparisons to Odawas are even more prescient
for the nine-minute closer "Halloween", an autumn must sticking to each note and refracting Hurley's voice to a
thin shell; though hints of stress show in previous moments of bold chaos, the pair take a golden opportunity to
unleash in their final moments in a full band jangle-rock (my Boys Life reference from last review still holds
true) before returning in reprise to their humble bliss. Not to force the burden on comparisons nor to imply the
band sounds somehow derivative - far from it: these are merely passing resemblances - but there remains a kindred
spirit which few artists effectively convey, and which not rains but pours from this duo... Highly recommended.
Phantom Dog is an Irish duo - Aaron Hurley and Scott McLaughlin which is usually labelled as avant-folk/shoegaze/indie rock.
"The Trees, The Sea in a Lunar Stream" is actually their first album - a debut following by "In a Light" as Snowmachine released on Deserted Village and a 3" EP "Through a forest only" under current alias.
Vocals, guitars, piano, cello, glockenspiel, bass guitar, melodica, double bass, harpsichord, vibraphone and a slight touch of electronics make their way to the point where singer/songwriter etiquette loses with psychedelia and fragile sphere of inner journey.
There is a great deal of poetry in this which isn't suppresive by any means and has enough power to become more than a music wallpaper which is a usual fact in case of songs of this type.
Two gentlemen refer to Nick Drake's archetype in their own manner and style - very much retro and gets everything what is good from that.
Time to chill out...
After a couple of years I finally hear an official release by this duo, consisting of Aaron Hurley and
Scott McLauglin. Leading are Aaron's slightly melancholic, moody, emotional high pitched whispery vocal
led songs (on the first song slightly broken), accompanied by acoustic and electrified acoustic pickings
with warm additional arrangements of cello, drums, piano, double bass, harpsichord, melodica, glockenspiel,
softly breathed trumpet and subtle electronics. This sort of melancholy is highly attractive and drags you
into the whole album. One track with deformed voice his voices whines stronger, and the arrangements becomes
sort of rockier. On the last track, the band arrangements even slightly "freak-out"
in a temperamental way, bringing the shoegazing factor into its heights of energy. Very good !
Opening with the excellently titled "As Perceived by Mice", the album is filled with gentle melody, atmosphere,
strangeness and quality, the musicians illuminating a hidden world of sun-filled dreams and excursions into
dusty attics, both nostalgic and hopeful. Highlight for me is the wonderful "Stealing Owls" a marvellous arrangement
bringing the song to life, whilst "Halloween" builds slowly over nine delicious minutes from soft acoustic to chaotic
electric, without losing its identity, great stuff.
Je vais oser quelques comparaisons qui me viennent à l'écoute de ce folk contemplatif recroquevillé.
Imaginez Nick Drake dévié par Robert Wyatt, happé par Gorky Zygotic Mynci, et projeté dans un espace
gracieux de Song of Great Pheasant, The Zephyrs, le tout balayé de
blanc avec dans la brosse une légère touche de vert émeraude piquée de terre d'ombre brûlée.
Un Rover sous anesthésie.
In lovely handmade arigato packaging..... The music is mysterious home spun folk music. Long drawn out dusty distant songs that at times recall a more
palatable Richard Youngs (if anyone hasn't heard his high water mark 'Sapphie' you should do right away).
It's full of eerie melodies, finger picked acoustic guitars and high pitched lost, longing vocals.
Cello's weep despondently but theres a soothing quality to the music and after a
few spins the subtle melodies start emerging from the murk. Recommended.
So, what do we have here? It's released by Rusted Rail, so it better be something good! Probably something leaning
towards the folkier side. Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon, interesting band name for sure. Gets me exited somehow.
And it looks great in that thin cardboard wallet. Basically, this is a very sentimental Michael Stipe kind
of singer, moving around in high registers, singing melancholic songs about nights, loves and losses.
The music is rather minimal,yet quite rich. While a song may consist of like three tiny melodies repeated over
and over, them melodies are usually very nice.The album's got some kind of ghastly lullaby feeling to it, which
appeals to me. I also learned to cope with the wheezy vocals. Sometimes, they even send goosebumps over my skin,
like in the first song when they go from high, to higher to even higher. And oh, the damped rolling drums and the
bass work in the extremely atmospheric "Hide and Seek" is worth mentioning, bringing a slight Cinema Strange sound
to the sound. Nice. "The Trees, The Sea in a Lunar Stream" is hereby by all means a recommended debut album from
Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon . You who fancy laid-back folk experimentation in darker hues might check this out,and
like it just the same.
Listening to Aaron Hurley and Scott McLaughlin's music reminds me of that wonderful expression from Hank Williams
about that high and lonesome sound. It could come across like too much of an attempt at a pun on my part to call
Phantom Dog haunting, but it's true, nonetheless. This album is a landscape of very carefully crafted textures,
including vibraphone, 'cello, double bass and electronics.
L'ultima proposta della benemerita etichetta irlandese Rusted Rail combina i caratteri più avanguardisti dell'attuale cantautorato folk con una sensibilità post-classica che fa ampio uso di una strumentazione orchestrale e di una lunga serie di organi analogici e texture elettroniche.
I responsabili di questo nuovo progetto contrassegnato dal suggestivo moniker Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon sono il cantautore Aaron Hurley e il polistrumentista Scott McLaughlin, artisti già in precedenza attivi nel cenacolo avant-folk coagulatosi intorno alla Deserted Village ma solo da poco attivi in duo sotto questa nuova denominazione.
I cinquanta minuti del loro debutto "The Trees, The Sea In A Lunar Stream" coniugano i loro diversi background e le relative attitudini in un lavoro che rifugge rigidi inquadramenti per presentare le mille diverse sfaccettature risultanti dalla progressiva stratificazione di vesti sonore su un tessuto musicale tradizionale. Così, se comune denominatore di quasi tutti i brani è l'evocativa scrittura di Hurley - che affonda le proprie radici nel più classico cantautorato drakeiano - gli otto brani racchiusi nel lavoro si ammantano di volta in volta di un'aura psichedelica e mistica, delineando una dimensione rurale e aliena, attraverso la quale rifulgono limpidi sentori bucolici ma anche astrazioni e deragliamenti chitarristici prossimi a torsioni drone-folk.
Il risultato è ottenuto da un lato attraverso una scrittura visionaria e ulteriormente arricchita dal febbrile avvicendamento sulla scena di una sorta di orchestra da camera, riassunta dall'abilità da polistrumentista di McLaughlin e composta di volta in volta di pianoforte, violoncello, glockenspiel, contrabbasso, vibrafono e harpsichord. Ed è proprio la cura strumentale riposta negli arrangiamenti, a trasfigurare con grande disinvoltura i brani da polverose nenie ancestrali ("Poems") a limpidi frammenti acustici ("Ellipse Of A Forest Walk"), da ritualismi atmosferici che rimandano ai Talk Talk di "Laughing Stock " ("Hide And Seek") a languidi saggi jazzy di un notturno ensemble cameristico come quello degli Spain ("A Shimmering Clown").
Il tutto è per di più puntellato da ricorrenti incursioni elettriche, al cui affiorare le composizioni dei Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon subiscono una mutazione genetica in bilico tra psichedelia della West Coast degli anni 70 e attualissime elucubrazioni drone-folk, particolarmente evidenti nella parte conclusiva del disco, ove lo stesso falsetto di Hurley si fonde in una specie di invocazione in un unicum con il brulicante substrato strumentale.
Indecifrabile e ispirato, "The Trees, The Sea In A Lunar Stream" risulta un'opera confezionata con cura
e rimarchevole classe compositiva, che con la sua strana coniugazione tra sensibilità antica e gusto performativo
post-moderno si atteggia quale ulteriore testimonianza della straordinaria vitalità
delle mille declinazioni del folk contemporaneo. E in questo senso, sulla scia di esperienze come quelle di Agitated Radio Pilot
e The Magickal Folk Of The Faraway Tree, l'Irlanda
sembra sempre più la terra ideale in grado di unire in maniera stimolante tradizione ed evoluzione.