Phi – Now the Waves of Sound Remain
Thu, 10 Sep 2015 19:59:24 +0000
I’m a bit late to the party in discovering Austrian post-prog trio Phi, given that they’ve been around since 2006 and have recently released a live album. But it is their 2014 studio effort, Now the Waves of Sound Remain, that I am reviewing here and that has sparked my interest.
Phi’s music is, at first listen, fairly simple and not entirely unlike similar post-prog bands such as RPWL. Most of the songs are quite accessible rhythmically, not very long (excluding the 10-minute title track), and have structures that are not particularly complex. But these surface features mask an underlying depth. Although most of the album is in standard time signatures, the band employs lots of interesting and unexpected rhythms to create a slightly unsettling atmosphere. The fact that they can do this while keeping the album accessible rhythmically is a testament to the ease with which they clearly create the music.
Musically, the album provides quite an unusual variety of moods, somewhat reminiscent of Porcupine Tree though not as rich melodically. It is quite dark, on the whole, though has its moments of lighter relief as well. Rather than utilise catchy hooks, Phi write tunes that are enjoyable, pleasant, but ever so slightly off-centre. I used the word “unsettling” in relation to their rhythms, and that applies to the music too. Songs like Tune In Zone Out (one of the strongest songs on the album) and the titular Now the Waves of Sound Remain do provide some big melodic moments, but much of the music is designed to not let the listener get too relaxed.
The same could be said for the album’s lyrical content too. The album covers a number of themes exploring the fusion between emotion and intellect, and much of it touches on quite uncomfortable issues. The lyrics themselves may not always be the most profound or eloquent, but the album is conceptually interesting and the lyrical themes very much interact with the musical ones.
The closing track, This Last Favour, does a good job of bringing all of these qualities together. While the band and I’m sure many fans will consider the title track to be the centrepiece of the album, it is the closer that provides just the right mix of melody, energy, emotion and tension.
While some albums will relax you, or take you on a rollercoaster ride, Now the Waves of Sound Remain instead makes you sit back and think. It’s not perfect, by any means – vocal stylings are solid but lacking in variety, and a couple of the songs don’t really contain enough substance. But as a whole, it’s a strong album with a unique and distinctive vibe and well worth checking out.
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