The Phantom Band: The Wants. New Album Out On 18th October 2010.





‘No man is an island’ wrote John Donne, but what about bands? Well,
they’re probably not islands either, but like most things in life, you
need exceptions to prove the rule. That’s why it was so remarkable when
The Phantom Band, with their legion of musical references, still managed
to sound quite unlike anyone else when they released Checkmate Savage in
2009, a debut that earned mass critical applause and made them the cult
success of the year. Twelve months later, they’re still in a movement of
one, and their follow-up, The Wants, looks set to cement their
reputation as one of the most inventive and vital units at work today.

If Checkmate Savage was the product of a band mulling over the human
race’s inexorable slide into oblivion, then its follow-up found them
turning feral and heading for the hills to ride out the storm. Holing up
in Chem19 (Chemikal Underground’s studio in the wastelands of Blantyre),
The Phantom Band immersed themselves in a primordial soup of influences
before emerging six months later, emaciated and squinting in the pallid
sunlight, cradling The Wants: a nine-track musical folly and the
soundtrack to their own personal apocalypse.

Charged with creating a second album more or less from scratch and in
situ – an album upon which their creative and material survival depended
- they contracted a virulent strain of cabin fever and promptly set sail
into the mouth of madness. Keyboardist Andy Wake elaborates: “As you
know, The Phantom Band was built on the site of an ancient Indian burial
ground, so every time we record it’s like an emotional exorcism. It’s
painful, prolonged, confusing; at times it’s hard to tell what’s
happening outside of this other-world.” Guiding them through this
tortuous birthing process was the chimerical figure of Mungo Bang, “a
spiritual adviser of sorts who came highly recommended. He also added

Their madness had method, because a lot came out in the mix: a forest of
tuned percussion, poly-rhythmic group vocals, fuzz guitars and medieval
electronics. Musical inspirations included David Lynch and John
Carpenter soundtracks, German kosmische music of the 70’s, Tom Waits,
digidub rhythms, R&B harmonies, doo-wop and rock’n'roll. Lyrical
inspiration emerged from lycanthropy, vampires, doppelgangers and the
Salem witch trials. That’s also Teenage Fanclub’s Wurlitzer organ you
can hear on Everybody Knows It’s True, alongside a host of other
instruments, both homemade and hard-bought. Various bits of furniture,
wood, a toy drum machine, some home-made drum triggers and FX pedals
(aptly named the Phantosizer), shelvaphones, a dulcimer and the studio
fire extinguisher – all had roles to play on the final recording. “Sink
[Greg Sinclair] appeared at rehearsal one day with what looked like a
body bag containing at least one corpse. It turned out to be a full size
vibrophone with all the trimmings,” explains Wake. If any more evidence
of creative initiative was required, the album opens with the sound of a
baliphone being sawed into tune in preparation for a take.

The end product represents a major leap forward for the band, a sound
more of their own. Juxtapositions are more apparent – arcane folk
melodies and gothic lyrical imagery straddle vintage analogue synths and
primitive drum machines. “Where Checkmate Savage was varied, we’ve
intensified those elements, because we’ve got no reason to be subtle
with them,” says Wake. “It’s much more concentrated, more skilfully
executed and with more decoration. It’s Checkmate Savage – On Ice.”

The Phantom Band was pulled together from all four corners of Scotland,
settling on Glasgow as PB HQ. Duncan Marquiss (guitar), Gerry Hart
(bass), Andy Wake (keyboards), Rick Anthony (vocals) and Greg Sinclair
(guitars) are a volatile cabal of creative contradictions: a
disorientating amalgam of music, art and performance that defies
categorisation and provides an object lesson in how to forge something
distinct and unique from well-worn sources. Checkmate Savage won
plaudits from the mainstream music press and the indie blogs alike,
finding famous fans in Peter Buck and comic artist Frank Quitely, while
the influential music emporium Piccadilly Records named it their album
of the year. Their new album may be The Wants, but what do The Phantom
Band want for? “Survival. For this album to lead to another after it,
that’s all. We think it’s better than the last one, and if anyone agrees
with us then brilliant, they can hop aboard. Those who disagree can hop
aboard too, but they’re sailing at the stern.”

Thanks to Matt at INHOUSE PRESS for this review.





By peter on September 5, 2010

Check out all the pics

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