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May 13, 2013 | by  | in Arts Music |
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The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango

When The Phoenix Foundation sing on the opening track to their latest album about living in “the valley of the saggy” fighting a “never-ending war with black mould”, you can’t help but feel that they’re talking about our very own Aro Valley. And they probably are. The Phoenix Foundation are a Wellington band and Fandango is their fifth and latest album.

And it is exquisite. It is lush, lyrically playful, and inventive. But while these descriptions could all fairly be applied to each of the Foundation’s previous four albums—particularly 2010’s acclaimed BuffaloFandango does offer something new. It is bigger, more expansive and, frankly, more interesting. It’s a double album, which, while probably meaningless to most people in the age of digital downloads, means that it contains a fair bit of that music stuff.

It’s an album with layers, ebbing and flowing from Wilco-esque folk-rock numbers to space-age pop ditties to 17-minute-long quasi-experimental numbers that sound a little bit Pink Floyd, a little bit Vangelis, and a little bit like that dude from Styx is about to break in with a “DŌMO ARIGATŌ MISTER ROBOTO”. And that’s cool with me.

With all that space for music, it should come as no surprise that there are some odd moments. ‘Evolution Did’, a synth-laden tune that seems to have something to say about creationism, borders on the plain weird. Then there’s the acid-house-jazz flute solo in ‘Sideways Glance’, which is, well, acid-jazz-like. But at no point do these forays into the bizarre feel like mistakes. At first they’re unsettling, but given another listen they add a richness to the album, and seem to be more evidence of the band’s good humour than anything else. On Fandango, it is clear that The Phoenix Foundation are a band who know they can make quality music—and do—but are willing to enjoy themselves in the process.

One of the two frontmen, Samuel Flynn Scott, has described Fandango as “test-match music”. Sit down for it, for it takes commitment, but it’s worth it. It’s one of those albums that you can immerse yourself in without thinking about too much, but you can also devote all your attentions to and be rewarded. So I give this one not just two but THREE big thumbs up. It’s a nice feeling to give an album by a local band my regal imprimatur not because it’s locally sourced, but because it’s just plain good.

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About the Author ()

Ollie served dutifully alongside Asher Emanuel as Co-editor of Salient throughout the tumult of 2012. He has contributed to Salient since 2011 and intends to do so for the rest of his waking life.

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