by Abigail Miglorie
Photo Courtesy of Facebook
The mutter of conversation dwindles, and the lights fade to a tranquilizing black. Fog begins to billow from parallel corners on stage and the energy surges in anticipation. The audience has water stains on their shirts from waiting in the rain. They stare at the stage, which begins to reveal ghastly shadows. The growing timbre of rippling drums starts to roar. The white backdrop reflects the now multi-colored shadows, and lights flash. The sound explodes, and the crowd immediately begins dancing in the glowing light. This is what the band is known for; this is what makes them Phantogram.
Phantogram, a New York duo comprised of dream-pop artists Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, produce an eccentric mix of synth-pop, electro-rock and trip-hop, creating a twilight-mix of harmony and soothing soul. The crowd responds by head bobbing and foot tapping, singing along with Barthel in an ongoing static of heart-swaying groove. All of this epitomizes the two; a “Phantogram” is an optical illusion in which two-dimensional objects appear three-dimensional.
The group filters its sound with spacey keyboard riffs, spiraling guitars, airy vocals and nebulous echoes, painting a dream in precise, soul-driven melody.
Although on tour promoting their latest LP, Three, the group shared only a few songs from the 2016 album, and performed several tracks from their previous EPs and LPs. The duo performed Black Out Days, Fall in Love and Howling at the Moon off of the 2014 LP, Voices and, of course, Don’t Move from the 2009 EP, Nightlife. The duo transitioned to Three towards the end of the set, performing acclaimed You Don’t Get Me High Anymore, and one of the album’s bombastic pieces, Funeral Pyre.
Barthel and Carter mixed Same Old Blues, Answer, Destroyer and You’re Mine in an ambidextrous style of trip-hop, in unexpected static riffs and flashing lights to dramatize Barthel’s extended vocals. Carter meticulously re-worked tempos and guitar solos to match Barthel’s supernatural voice, assisted by a live drummer to amp their sound for the whirling crowd. It mirrored the circadian rhythm in which our dreamscape oscillates.
In an indie trip-hop venture of powerhouse vocals and glitch arrangements, the duo truly makes their mystified performance something of a dream, driven by a rare street-beat of alchemist music-making.