by Cody Mello-Klein
Sound is a very interesting idea that is often taken for granted. It can please us, move us emotionally, alert us to danger, and even scare us. In the music of today sound is treated as a commodity, as artists (and the business people behind them) use hooks and simple rhythms to sell us our sound. However, there was a time when musicians sought new sounds and experimented with those sounds in order to create genuinely unique and captivating songs. Beginning long before the 60’s, but only really taking off in that decade, psychadelia utilized music as a means of achieving something special, a truly spiritual experience. On the Puerto Rican Fantasmes’ debut album, Redness Moon, the techniques and sounds of that bygone era are brought back but with slightly disappointing results.
As huge psychedelic enthusiasts, Mario Negrón and Darío Morales are clearly trying their hardest to recreate a sound that has been forgotten or misused in past decades. It is in this regard that Redness Moon succeeds, for the duo uses vintage recording techniques and sounds that make this album feel like a long-lost record from the days of the Beatles and Hendrix. Reversed guitars, wavering vocal effects, and even the drums sounds scream “60’s psychadelia.”
Unfortunately, this is where the album ceases to be an homage to this music. Instead what follows are tracks that lack the energy and organic flow of those original psychedelic artists. Songs like “Cloud Prepositions” and “Passages” lope along at a leisurely pace and remain stagnant and repetitive the whole way through. The vocals, treated with that vintage echoing flanger effect, wind and weave within the songs, not intending to be understood but rather treated as another instrument. Seemingly meant to entrance the listener, these songs may be perfect for a drug-addled brain to move the body to, however for the average listener, who is most likely sober, these songs really just end up being boring. As a result, most of these songs blend together in a giant psychedelic mess.
As a psychedelic album, this works to a certain extent, yet the vintage sounds and techniques really just hide an album that is too busy trying to mime its influences to create anything unique (“Dance In the Shadows” is pretty much a lost Beatles demo from the late 60’s). There is some interesting sonic experimentation here with the use of echoes and building tracks into swaying, wavering drones but can it really be called experimentation when the same thing was done 40 or 50 years ago?
The idea behind this album was very promising, in fact, this could have been one of my favorite albums of the year. However, the Puerto Rican duo wants too bad to sound like its influences and just lacks the energy to create what those artists did. They understand what those songs did and have recreated the sounds with a surgical precision and attention to detail, yet the tracks end up feeling like forced weirdness and development. Ultimately, the only track that progresses, at all, and in an organic way is “Monsters Mother” but it really isn’t enough to save this album from mimicry and dullness.