Phall Fatale — Moonlit Bang Bang
(Slowfoot SLOCD028, 2016, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2016-04-01
In the category of groups with unusual instrumentation, Phall Fatale deserves special mention. There’s a drummer (Fredy Studer), two singers who contribute keyboards and electronics (Joana Aderi and Joy Frempong), and two acoustic bassists (John Edwards and Daniel Sailer). They’re quite the international crew as well, representing Switzerland, Germany, and England. Their music is unique as well, with qualities of pop, jazz, electronic, and avant-garde all mixed up together. At first hearing, the two women’s voices are the attention-grabber. Aderi and Frempong sometimes work together in tight harmonies, sometimes in contrasting parts, sometimes nearly spoken, sometimes flying off on fancies of odd noises, sometimes processed into ominous demonic tones. Studer’s drumming is propulsive in spite of avoiding typical patterns much of the time, taking inspiration from African percussion and electronic dance music. The two bassists work together in a variety of ways: one will be playing bowed lines while the other plucks rhythmically; one will be playing an insistent fuzz riff while the other punctuates with clean tones; and so on. The vocals are a bit reminiscent of Zap Mama, with a little Pixel as well, and as soon as you think you’ve got them figured out, they throw something new at you. “Crocodile” is probably my favorite track, with fuzz bass and distorted vocals at the start, then chanted lyrics full of amusing turns of phrase; the chorus ramps up the electronic weirdness, then there’s a passage with one bowed bass and one pizzicato. About halfway through, all sorts of strange electronic noises bounce around while the drums and fuzz bass maintain a nasty groove. Yet in spite of all the oddness, it’s a catchy tune, a wonderful example of how interesting a song can be when not constrained by the formulas of current pop. Every one of the album’s twelve tracks has its own joys and quirks, even the moody “Tree House,” with somber piano tones and spooky atmosphere. Listeners who long for something out of the ordinary, who like a catchy tune but find pop music too predictable, who crave a little adventurousness, should take a look at Moonlit Bang Bang. In a time when we have scientific evidence that pop music is getting less interesting, Phall Fatale is a welcome antidote.
Related artist(s): Phall Fatale
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