The Phoenix Foundation, Fandango

Sharon O'Connell

By Sharon O'Connell

on 05.14.13 in Reviews

If there’s any embarrassment about the notions of excess attached to the double-album format, then New Zealand sextet The Phoenix Foundation certainly don’t suffer from it. Their fifth album clocks in at an undeniably hefty 77 minutes and took them 15 months to record, but they remain blush-free about its high ambition and the sonic adventurism that packs every groove. As vocalist and guitarist Samuel Scott puts it, this is a record “that pays absolutely no attention to the short-form game of contemporary music.” What it does pay attention to is sound — the most complexly imagined, seductively layered and immaculately produced kind. Fandango lays out a dazzling buffet of psychedelia, prog-folk, synth pop and motorik rock, then variously treats each piece with ’60s echo and delay, fuzzes it out via ’70s analog gear or applies ’80s AOR glaze. So diverse are its sources, and so obliquely are they tapped, that it would take a week to pinpoint them all, but Can, Ash Ra Tempel, the Flying Nun roster (in particular, The Clean and The Chills), George Harrison, Aphrodite’s Child, ELO and Fairport Convention are certainly there in spirit.

A dazzling buffet of psychedelia, prog-folk, synth pop and motorik rock

Which might suggest The Phoenix Foundation as little more than talented revivalists with ADD, but the dizzying multiple pleasure of their magnum opus lies in its unforced eccentricity and sumptuous detail, in its headphones-friendly, enveloping melodic warmth and attendant sweet melancholy. Whether it’s deeply groovy opener “Black Mould,” the keening, Goldfrapp-like “Sideways Glance” or closing psychedelic blowout “Friendly Society,” Fandango reveals an obvious delight in taking its time and sweating the small stuff.