There is something tell tale of a band being on the right
track when Julian Cope hails your music as “good for the mental health”. And
when you have an act that cites a gaggle of artists guaranteed to spin the head
of rock ‘n’ roll’s Druid King as inspirations, an endorsement from the onetime
Teardrop Explodes frontman is all the more logical.
However, while the Phantom Family Halo, the brainchild of
former Sapat sound manipulator Dominic Cipolla, may claim the likes of
Throbbing Gristle, Guru Guru and Faust as sonic heroes, those expecting a heady
trip similar to the ground he and partner William Benton covered with their
masterful 2009 double LP opus Monoliths
and These Flowers Never Die or their recent collaborative Mindeater EP with fellow Louisville,
Kentucky ex-pat Bonnie “Prince” Billy might be in for a bit of a surprise.
In fact, When I Fall
Out, the Halo’s third full-length LP, sounds quite different from anything
the group has offered since forming in 2007.
Comprised of eight original songs, the Phantom’s latest is the first of
two conceptual recordings the band is releasing this year-one dedicated to
darkness and the other to light.
When I Fall Out is
the dark LP whose songs took Cipolla over a year to pen and were propelled by
the sudden passing of a close friend, former Halo auxiliary drummer Tony
Bailey. Yet while the lyrical themes of this record stem from a place of
sorrow, it is counterbalanced by a kinetic accessibility that has belied
previous PFH outings, albeit to a degree. “White Hot Gun” and “Above My Head”
channels Brian Eno’s Roxy Music years, while “Light Year Girl” evokes the more
rockist moments of Roky Erickson’s solo years before mutating into a vibe
evocative of early Mercury Rev in session with Archie Shepp.
The seriously buggier side of the Halo does turn up eventually on When
I Fall Out, particularly on the gauzy, Deerhunter-esque “Dirty Blade” and
the hypnotic closing number “Vital Energy”, a Maharishi-tinged mind melter whose
freaky coda will definitely appeal to those who have seen the band in concert
and understand their prowess for sending heads up to the sky like nitrous-filled
In the fall of 2012, the Halo will unveil the “light” half
of their two-LP arc, tentatively titled Hard
Apple Moon. It promises to be a more “resigned” and “angry” outing
according to the Knitting Factory Records web site. Indeed it will be
interesting to see how this forthcoming title compares to When I Fall Out–especially for those more in tune with the group’s
more experimental side.
Hot Gun”, “Light Year Girl”, “Vital Energy” RON