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FILTER Grade: 84%

By Ken Scrudato on February 18, 2014



It’s roughly 180 miles from New York City to Saratoga Springs, but the distance may as well be the span between reality and mythology. Phantogram have been hidden away in their bucolic hermitage (in fact, a barn charmingly dubbed “The Harmony Lodge”), conjuring their own special vision of Elysium. In that particular paradise, a great number of hours are ostensibly spent pondering the mystical anomalies of those who have created music under the preternatural banner of 4AD. Indeed, “Black Out Days” and “I Don’t Blame You” make little shame of invoking the specters of Cocteau Twins and Clan of Xymox. Yet while the artful duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter are something of a Crystal Castles for more cultivated aesthetes, their alluring second album Voices finds them spending no small amount of time trawling through the muck and mire. Like those princes of sensuous depravity Depeche Mode, they have a particular talent for making the sordid sound sexy. Sleazy, fuzzed-out synthesizers reinforce pretty but mournful melodies to astonishing effect on tracks like “Nothing But Trouble” and “The Day You Died.” They do, alas, slip into conventionality at times; Barthel’s singing is gorgeous without being astonishingly original. But those are minor derelictions. Et in Arcadia imperfectio, in aeternum. Of course.


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