LIVE REVIEW: The Phoenix Foundation, Eden Mulholland @ Newtown Social Club, Sydney (17/04/15)

The-Phoenix-Foundation

The Phoenix Foundation​ were quite superb last night at Newtown Social Club​ in Sydney. I’ve only seen them once before and now, years later, they have a pretty hefty back catalogue to draw from across their 90 min show.

In support Eden Mullholland showcased his warped pop sensibilities across jagged guitars, pulsing synth and with an impressive vocal range. Quirky indie pop capable of causing both a cerebral and physical reaction.

They played a cross-section from most of their releases plus a couple of previews of songs pegged for their next record. Those tracks continue their deft blend of psych pop, melancholic indie rock and the polymorphic propulsion of krautrock and forward thinking and detailed electronica. With a rhythm section that often sounded way more complex than a drummer, bassist and percussionist, they stretched and smeared pop nuggets into widescreen, freewheeling space rock like a futuristic Grateful Dead.

’40 Years’ was a highpoint and crowd favourite but only one of many highlights that also included ‘Black Mould’, ‘Buffalo’, ‘Damn The River’ and ‘Bob Lennon John Dylan’.

On the contemporary musical landscape Twerps and The War On Drugs may be bands of the moment but The Phoenix Foundation were bending ears in a similar fashion long before them. Blistering musicianship, affable stage manner and songs that took on a life of their own through the exceptional Newtown Social Club PA made for transportive experience.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: The Phoenix Foundation | Fandango

by Chris Familton

Rating8.5phoenix-foundation-fandangoThis feels like the big one for the Wellington sextet, even before it was released there were ads and editorial appearing in international music magazines like Uncut and MOJO and a real sense of coming of age has been in the air. Not that they haven’t already arrived, their preceding albums all contain absolute gems of literate guitar pop (Hitchcock, 40 Years, This Charming Van) that balanced intellect and emotional sway with equal gravity. Fandango takes all that they have created to date, refines it to its key musical elements and spreads it across a gleaming technicolor canvas.

The band have allowed themselves space and time on this record. Time in the sense of tracks being allowed to slowly evolve and morph, settle into mesmerising grooves and atmospheres. Eight of the album’s eleven tracks exceed five minutes and yet only one outstays its welcome. The element of space in their music partners with its loose time parameters in that they’ve enabled themselves the room to carefully compose and arrange the songs beautifully. Notes hang in the air like the shimmering guitar on the opening track Black Mould, an ode to the damp conditions of residential homes in New Zealand. They sound more comfortable at pairing up single instruments like vocals and guitar and only introducing others when the song requires them. This technique allows a song like Modern Rock to gently swell and grow. It feels organic even though its rhythmic krautrock backbone is robotic in nature.

First single The Captain cuts through the hazier wanderings with its direct synth pop approach. It has that nostalgic mood that bands like Ducktails and Destroyer have executed so well in recent years and highlights the subtle funk component of The Phoenix Foundation’s sound that has slowly gained more and more prominence with each album. They cut a similar feel on Evolution Did, taking them further into electronica territory while losing nothing of their own established sound. That ability is always a mark of great musicians and songwriters.

One hallmark of The Phoenix Foundation has always been the lightness or breezy aspect of their music. Here they’ve allowed themselves to also venture into darker, psychedelic places as on Corale with its swirling split personality of gentle psych folk in the first half and then the swirling and ominous kosmiche wig-out in the song’s latter section. They hit a similar spot on Morning Riff but it is presented as a very precise piece of music, almost devoid of emotion but still possessing some weird undercurrent that, combined with the clever melody of the central riff, makes for a real highlight of Fandango.

Surely lined up as a single is Walls with its effervescent, wordless “doo doo doo doo” chorus and The Cure meets The Smiths snatches of guitar making it one of their finest pop moments to date. The album closes with a seventeen minute tracks that shows potential early on but after six minutes it transitions into a rather disjointed patchwork of instrumental moments that ultimately lacks substance and could have easily been omitted from the album. That being said, one can just pretend the records ends at the previous song if they find Friendly Society similarly disappointing.

Fandango is a bold album that takes some risks and makes the vast majority of them successes. It is the sign of a band reaching the apex of their abilities as songwriters and players, harnessing the key qualities of indie, pop, funk, post punk, electronica and krautrock and creating from them the signature sound of The Phoenix Foundation, with gloriously indulgent and yet wholly accessible results.

this review was first published on UnderTheRadar

2013 MID YEAR FAVOURITE ALBUMS

2013 mid year faves

Here we are again at list time, halfway through 2013 and already there have been a swathe of great albums released. We’ve been listening to an eclectic mix of stuff as usual including dub electronica, skronking freeform saxophone, abrasive art rock, retro-leaning post punk and heartstring americana. These are the records we’ve loved the most from what we’ve heard this year. There will be others from the last six months that we’ll discover as the rest of the year rolls out but we can at least highly recommend these ones – in no particular order…

  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
  • Protomartyr – No Passion All Technique
  • The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango
  • Kirin J Callinan – Embracism
  • The Drones – I See Seaweed
  • Fat Freddy’s Drop – Blackbird
  • Jason Isbell – Southeastern
  • DJ Koze – Amygdala
  • Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
  • Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol 3: To See More Light
  • Zomby – With Love

VIDEO: The Phoenix Foundation | Flock of Hearts

A bunch of old ladies rolling around the cliff tops of New Zealand and rolling a giant glowing egg down the beach is the order of the day for the new video from The Phoenix Foundation. Flock of Hearts is the third single to come from their recent album Buffalo. NZ tour dates after the vid…

Friday 5th November – San Francisco Bath House, WELLINGTON
Tickets $34 + bf from www.undertheradar.co.nz & Real Groovy Wellington. 8.30pm / R18
With support from Joe Blossom

Saturday 6th November – Cabana, NAPIER
Tickets $25 + bf from www.undertheradar.co.nz & the Venue. 8.30pm / R18
With support from Dear Time’s Waste

Saturday 13th November – The Powerstation, AUCKLAND
Tickets $34 + bf from Ticketmaster & Real Groovy Auckland. 7.30pm / R18
With support from Dear Time’s Waste

Friday 19th November – Als Bar, CHRISTCHURCH
Tickets $27.50 + bf from www.undertheradar.co.nz & Galaxy Records. 8.30pm / R18.
With support from Dear Time’s Waste

NEWS: THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION release Buffalo…

New Zealand band The Phoenix Foundation are set to release their 4th album Buffalo on April 26th in NZ. The title track will be released to radio today as a single and the lads are sorting out Collector Edition Packages of the album plus a t shirt/teas towel design competition. Check their website for details…

Fans of indie guitar music with washes of melancholy and americana flavours would be well served to check them out if you don’t know them…