The Rose Phantom
The Rose Phantom = Earth + Joy Division
To follow up his Solace EP from last year, Theodoric Newsom is releasing the second half of this musical narrative, the Sympathy EP. It’s a more agitated release, mostly trading in on the blissful electronics of the series’ first release and replacing them with crunchy guitars and a more rockist, punk feeling. The opener, “Less Than a Kiss,” wastes no time setting up the impassioned, tortured soul that haunts these tracks. Atop fast, distorted guitar riffs, Newsom laments a lost relationship with his bellowing voice. Of all the Bowie-indebted vocalists out there, Newsom is one of the few to choose the singers’ late-period baritone over the characteristic Ziggy Stardust–era yelps as a point of inspiration. While not always perfectly in tune, Newsom’s full-bodied singing and his willingness to stray from vocal conventions makes him an affecting narrator.
“Painted Desert Skies” aims to carve out the titular images through its droning guitar phrases. The instrumental composition is immaculately produced, and the combination of the low guitar harmonies and the atmospheric electronic backdrop is not unlike driving across the Nevada desert in the final hours of daylight. Newsom’s studio skills have always stood out, and the work on Sympathy is no different. Though brief, the panning drum intro on “Peace of Mind” is a moment of recorded music perfection. Mood—which is arguably as important of a medium for Newsom as sound—is the product of careful spatial construction, a concept that Newsom displays his understanding of perpetually throughout his music.
Taken together, both the Solace and Sympathy EPs offer differing emotional and musical portraits of Newsom’s work. They’re a little too at odds to slide together into a fully cohesive project, but the result does recall the stark first-side/second-side divide that defines many albums from the heyday of Newsom’s obvious post-punk and new wave inspirations. Listen to and purchase the albums on The Rose Phantom’s Bandcamp page. –Connor Lockie