November 2013 National Music Reviews

Review: The Fire Tapes – Phantoms

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The Fire Tapes
Phantoms
WarHen Records
Street: 09.17
The Fire Tapes = Slowdive + Fleetwood Mac + Sonic Youth
I admit to being a bit of a snob when seeing guitarists using Stratocasters. There is an explanation for another time, though it’s still unfair, given that this venerable model of guitar has served multitudes of musicians for over a half-century. Either way, it’s a bias I haven’t quite gotten over as of the time of this review. Concert photos of The Fire Tapes show singer/guitarist Betsy Wright and guitarist Todd Milton both using Strats, yet I didn’t get that guitar nerd twitch. They’re creating some interesting sounds with their instruments — noise, trills, and harmonic squalls around grainy chords. Having mentioned the noisier elements, a sort of sonic counterpoint worthy of note is Wright’s voice, full yet ghostly. I missed hearing it a bit on Phantoms’ tracks not featuring her vocals. For reference, “Scarlet Cliffs” and “Echoes” are fairly representative of much of the album’s tone and musical nature. –T.H.
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