Sometimes it feels like there is too much going on in Los Angeles and that it is absolutely impossible to keep up. It doesn’t give you a feeling of being overwhelmed: it kind of makes you feel like you’ll never quite be able to track all of the moving parts in this city. Music is an area that constantly eludes us and we try to forecast musicians who are worth a listen before they explode into something bigger than small town musical heroes. Rhye is the perfect example of an LA band who sidestepped all local forecasting and knocked every music listener of 2013 onto their asses. Pharaohs is another band who has been equally as elusive and is starting to bubble up in everyone’s conversations. Their recently released LP Replicant Moods is going to be another 2013 album that gets some next level attention because it’s a bright, casual, non-aggressive dance album we all didn’t know we wanted.
The band is a fairly anonymous act who have been playing local shows and doing Boiler Room sets but, still, they are nearly unGoogleable. Their sound is split into two worlds: they are part musical collage, like an edit act who relies less on cut-and-paste tricks and more on meshing found sounds together, and they are part light funk dance machine, a very laid back, non-bass-in-your-face, bounce your head and handclap band. The resulting mix is a very unpredictable sound that reaches everywhere from gospel robotics (“Everything” sums this up perfectly.) to pulse setting keyboard stroking, like the album’s title track, “Replicant Moods.” There’s a bit of disco dance fantasy (“Miraculous Feet” is essentially a playtime version of “He’s The Greatest Dancer.”), airy cruises through synth clouds (“F & M Suite” touches on 1970s Italian disco sound pieces, much like the soundtrack to a travel montage at the beginning of an Italian B film of that era.), and even jabs at modern electronic acts who have lost touch of their roots (“Beyond Within” is basically a middle finger to M83, telling him “Hey, Anthony: remember Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts? We do.”).
The album is fast, though: at eight songs, it comes in a little over the forty minute mark. Only one of the songs reaches over the six minute mark (the rest seem to hover around the five minutes, forty second zone) and they all do feel like they could have been wallowed in or indulged in a little more: you want them to take the songs to the next level and blow them out into fifteen minute explorations of sound. Closer “Above / Below” is the only song that hits this point of crazy soundscaping: it’s nine minutes, thirty three seconds of building synths over an assembly line of sound all of which is juxtaposed with a gruff, ghost voice who cuts in and out of the build.
That song–like the entire album–is a fascinating, fun listen. You can’t predict where the band heads during their eight tracks but you won’t be disappointed where they lead you. They take you to some really fun places and they don’t really have any contemporary, stellar rivals (local or beyond). The closest comparison that comes to mind is Gavin Russom’s tribal electronic (dud) The Crystal Ark, a band that made big promises last year to combine Russom’s literally home grown sound machines with South American glitz but ultimately went to a very cheesy, nightclub theatrics place, forgetting that they made excellent songs like “The City Never Sleeps” and “The Tangible Presence Of The Miraculous.” Phantoms hints at what they are capable of and nearly reach these high heights they’re eyeing. We don’t doubt they will make it to those levels soon. We’re glad we are on the ground level with this group.