Denton locals The Holophonics are touring this year in support of their new record, 2018’s Phantom Arrival, so you won’t be able to catch them in North Texas until July 28th at J & J’s Pizza. That said, these guys are super tight already and I can’t imagine what three months of balls-to-the-wall coast-to-coast touring will do. Maybe they will meld into a giant octopus, tentacles tangled with trumpets, trombones, drum sticks, a p-bass, a free arm wrapped around your head, cosmic suckers glued to your temples, direct-uploading your brain with their nearly ineffable brand of enthusiastic songs, rhythms, and horn lines. Or maybe they will have transcended, adding their own concept of beauty to the universal hum, aspiring zen ska masters from a brassy realm. There is a beauty here. Delicate arrangements are executed with a near-psychotic fervor that surpasses “typical” post-punk ska. These songs positively sparkle with attention to detail while never feeling too over-the-top.
Phantom Arrival successfully blends intelligent lyrics and intricate, rude-boy horns and rhythms into an album both peppy and aggressive. Listening to this record feels like a deep-sea adventure. The listener is the aquanaut, and each tune encapsulates a scene. The opener, “Phantoms,” hints at the depths ahead. The playful mix on “Sleepwalker” invites the listener closer and closer–you crank your stereo, straining to hear the tumult, curious about the hint of treasure to be found beneath the sand. I’m listening, but in my head I’m walking towards the beach, and I can hear the waves crashing just behind the dune, and then I crest the dune, and infinity greets me in the form of every shade of blue and green replete with dancing sun diamonds. Every tune is a creature of the deep, each movement a wave or a plunge or a submersion–or a leaping up, heavy whale body cresting over in a Great Splash. Every tune splashes at you, plunges at you, forces your head to bob as the marvel of the tightness exhibited by these excellent players reveals itself.
The seamless transition of the horn anthem “DRC2018” into the penultimate title track “Phantom Arrival” creatively dives away from the established feel but then returns again, placating the listener’s expectations then exceeding them. Like a shape under the surface, the canned drums and reverb guitar of “Phantom Arrival” morph into a moody, massive beast, that’s at first majestic then terrifyingly huge. Snapping us from our reverie, the lyric “I wonder if I’m lost or if it’s only wonderlust” busts out, leading the listener on the final plunge from the cliff face of “Wonderlust”.
The Holophonics are seasoned, enabling them to serve the songs. Harrell Peterson’s trumpet work amazes–his focused amberature enables him to articulate, lending a special spicy flavor to his tonal quality. The trumpet sounds Latin influenced, a little gritty, and purposed. It fits with the record as a whole. Infused with a pointed intention, Phantom Arrival tantalizes the listener, beckons him in, whispers, then bellows. The rest of the band fills out the scene like a storm clanging a buoy–waves crashing, howling winds shaping the sounds to come.
Phantom Arrival feverishly flails like a cephalopod, tentacles twined around brass and bass, guitar and harmonies. This album has all the hallmarks of a tried-and-true, heavy-rotation album that begs to live in your CD changer, turntable, or playlist. Songs like “Soul Crusher” flirt with reggae and ska until you are bobbing away, wondering how soon you can get to the beach. Dynamic and angstful vox give way again and again to smooth moments; the relentless ebb and flow of this Holophonic tide will draw you in, sure to immerse you in its undertow.