Phantom Phunk – Arboles Ossific
The ten song first album from South Florida’s Phantom Phunk entitled Arboles Ossific is a musical gymnastic act that heralds the arrival of a major new outfit in the alternative/progressive genre. The band first came together as a duo in 2014 but the primary songwriters Sasha Cheine and Hector Alexander soon decided to expand the potential of their songwriting ideas with the addition of guitarist Juan Gonzalez and drummer Nick Emiliozzi. The quartet spent a year playing together and growing as musical unit while, at the same time, assembling the material that appears on this debut. This is a band determined to control their own artistic destiny, for better or worse, and that approach is reflected in their appealing refusal to play by anyone’s musical rules but their own.
Few songs make that more apparent than the opener “Snowy in Florida”. This is a challenging progressive music workout with a number of difficult musical shifts that the musicians carry off with startling ease. Despite the variety of turns, the song’s construction is clear early on and there are no lulls in the track that sound tacked on for arbitrary reasons. A shallow listen to the song might make it sound like Phantom Phunk is all over the musical map and not exhibiting much rhyme or reason, but a closer hearing will reveal the interlocking parts and how the band segues from point A to point B without revealing even a sliver of daylight. “Sip of Wine” is a much more down to earth song, nominally, but even here Phantom Phunk defies expectations with a less is more aesthetic that underplays rather than dramatizes the song’s sentiments. “The Unheard Spirit Symphony” is more obviously daring than the preceding track, but the band’s underrated pop instincts come out here in such a way that discerning listeners will quickly understand why the band has chosen it for a single.
“Hey There” continues the band’s habit of feinting in the initial moments of the song before moving into a distinctly retro themed track that, like “The Unheard Spirit Symphony”, exhibits their real skill at crafting accessible yet highly individualistic rock. “Brother’s Keeper” takes the musical direction in a much more microcosmic direction by focusing on personal relationships with relatively minimal musical backing. The melodic virtues in this song are reminiscent of those in the earlier “Sip of Wine”, but there’s a sketched out quality here that allows the listener’s imagination more room to roam. The album’s lengthiest song “Tommy’s Cosmic Avocado” moves through the first half embossed with a compositional approach to the guitar playing that’s at once quirky and edgy before transitioning into a much more restrained middle, but it’s the climatic three minutes near the end when Phantom Phunk unleashes the full force of the six string and closes things out on a blistering note.
Listen to this album once, then another five times, but even then, you still haven’t gotten it all. Phantom Phunk is brimming over with ideas and connects with an astonishing amount of them. Their stylistic jumps aren’t for the musically faint of heart, but they have the training and talent to make those moments pay off. Arboles Ossific might be the strangest album title of the year, but the contents are nothing less than the first of many creative fireballs that this band will likely throw across our musical landscape.
9 out of 10 stars