Tue, October 25
Doors: 7:00 pm9:30 Club
Special offer! A digital download of Phantogram’s forthcoming album is included with every ticket you order for this show. You will receive an email with instructions on how to receive your download closer to the release date.https://www.930.com/event/1213373/
Phantogram - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Can a band working in relative isolation craft music that resonates with listeners around the world? Can that band and its music evolve and connect with an ever-widening audience without sacrificing quality or compromising integrity?
When the band in question is Phantogram, the answer to both is unequivocally “yes.” And Voices provides indisputable proof.
The New York duo’s second full-length album catches the ear quickly, melding hazy dream pop, dark atmospheres, and head-knocking rhythms into a compelling, original sound. Opener “Nothing But Trouble” contrasts waves of distortion with Sarah Barthel’s beguiling soprano, underpinned by Josh Carter’s gritty urban beats. Moments later, the staccato vocal hook and layered rhythms of “Black Out Days” drive the listener deep into a fever dream of echo and atmospherics. But do not confuse immediacy with instant gratification. The impact of Phantogram’s songs intensifies over time.
Since 2007, the Phantogram sound has evolved gradually and organically, and the band’s career has mirrored that progress. Formed in Saratoga Springs, a small city in upstate New York, longtime friends Carter and Barthel crafted music untroubled by outside interference. With each new release and national tour since 2009 debut Eyelid Movies (Barsuk), their sound has progressed—and so has their popularity. Yet Voices makes no concessions to commercialism. From inception to execution, Phantogram’s second album stays true to the aesthetic that has won them a wide, disparate fan base.
The making of Voices hewed closer to its predecessors than the band first intended. Although now based in Brooklyn, they retreated to familiar turf to minimize distractions. “We tried writing in Los Angeles, we tried writing in New York City, but we had to head back to upstate New York to get some peace and quiet,” says Barthel. Only after the initial songwriting was completed did they decamp to LA, where Carter would team up with co-producer John Hill (M.I.A., Santigold) to record and put the finishing touches on the band’s sophomore album.
Lead single “Fall In Love” emphasizes its sly hooks via contrasting dynamics, with quiet snippets of synthesized strings and isolated vocal passages sprinkled amidst pulsating bass tones and Psycho-worthy orchestral stabs. Bluesy, vapor trail guitar lines and a rhythmic buzzing reminiscent of a mad scientist’s laboratory impart the sublime “Bill Murray” with an eerie balance of contemplation and disquiet.
Although hip-hop is a key influence on their music, the division of labor in Phantogram doesn’t neatly split into clear cut old school roles of DJ and MC. The two members share creative responsibilities. Carter sings lead on two new tunes (“Never Going Home” and the percussive “I Don’t Blame You”) and Barthel assumed a bigger role in production on Voices. Sometimes they write together in the same room, at others they split up; immediate proximity isn’t a prerequisite after years of collaboration.
“We’re able to work separately from one another and accomplish the same goal,” explains Carter. An idea hatched on piano or guitar by one band member may then be passed on to the other for further refinement. “If we’re stumped on something specific, we’re able to swap the material we’re working on,” adds Sarah. “That’s a really cool process, because one of us will think of an idea the other might not have.”
Whereas their previous work was largely studio-based, this time the live experience factored into the composition, too. Phantogram has toured incessantly since the release of Eyelid Movies, headlining larger and larger sold-out shows at clubs and theaters and delivering knockout performances at festivals including Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Treasure Island. “Touring led the way to what the music on Voices would sound like,” says Barthel. “It helped us expand and discover new sounds and dynamics that we wanted to incorporate.”
In addition to the new sonic discoveries, all those shows have proved integral to Phantogram’s gradual, but steady, rise in acclaim. “A huge part of our audience comes from playing live and touring,” says Carter. “Being able to go from playing a crowd of five people to 50, then 500 or even 5,000 has marked our progress and shown us the value of working hard, while challenging us to still make our music unique.”
Discipline and innovation have won Phantogram admiration from well-seasoned peers. Acclaimed music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas (The Twilight Saga, Gossip Girl) solicited an exclusive track (“Lights”) for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The duo joined forces with the Flaming Lips for “You Lust,” a thirteen-minute epic showcased on the Oklahoma combo’s 2013 album The Terror. “It seems crazy that artists that we admire want to create music with us,” admits Carter. “That is huge compliment to us and all our hard work.”
Meanwhile, working with Big Boi on three tracks for his 2012 solo album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors did more than just broaden Phantogram’s listening audience. The Outkast veteran also dispensed sage advice as they graduated to a larger record label and bigger crowds. “The conversations with him gave us composure and confidence,” says Barthel. “He told us not to worry and stay true to what we were already doing.” Lend an ear to Voices and it is clear Phantogram took that advice to heart.
The Range - (Set time: 7:45 PM)
The internet inspires everything around us. It’s changed the world we live in, simultaneously showing us how much there is to know and how close to our fingertips it is now. We communicate with dizzying volume and speed, via ones and zeros on a scale unthought-of of even fifty years ago. As The Range, James Hinton has made a record as part of the last generation that will remember going online for the first time. The magic of Potential- his first album for Domino - is as a document of its time. It is a notebook from 2015, when someone took stock of the expansive and strange world being opened up in front of us and set it to music, to move us.
The Range began in a basement in Providence, in 2011. A physics graduate of Brown University, Hinton made the computer his primary instrument after falling under the spell of the Baltimore club scene, bringing in his broader sonic influences from early ‘90s jungle, early ‘00s grime and mid ‘00s electronica to a new sonic whole. The software was the thing at home, but what excited the young producer was the network, and where he spiraled was YouTube. “I remember thinking, this is insane, and special. All of these people are sitting in their bedrooms, spilling out their guts, and I’m all the way over here, in my room, listening. I knew the music I wanted to make was like the music I loved – different, disparate but defined – and here were all of these collaborators, in cities I had never even visited.”
Potential uses as its backbone a series of vocal samples that Hinton has found in the forgotten corners of the site, guiding us around the hinterlands of content, introducing us to unknown artists expressing themselves unfettered by the constraints of industry, lost in the infinite potential of an audience unknown. But his are human stories: he might be fascinated by the code that determines his journey, but what really grips him are the real stories behind the samples. “I am very conscious that these people who I have sampled elevate what I do, just as much as my record brings their work somewhere else.”
This is modern day storytelling. On ‘1804’ he harkens back to grime’s dancehall influences, sampling Kingston, Jamaica’s Naturaliss (88 views); on ‘Falling Out Of Phase’ he makes use of a Keyshia Cole cover performed in front of a shower curtain (12,623 views); on opener ‘Regular’ he employs spare, impactful synth and beats as the backdrop to a monologue from London MC SdotStar (45 views). “Right now I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it / But even if … / I’ll just decide to move on to something bigger and better.”
Hinton’s work holds those raw human elements dear within his digital pathways but Potential is still malleable, unique. There’s a hyper-modern streak to The Range’s work, one that owes as much to DJ Rashad as it does international influence from his introduction to the works of Kieran Hebden and his experiences with the grime scenes of London. “It speaks to me first and foremost in an intellectual way,” he says, “but it’s obviously so much more a club experience. It was so cool to hear it in that way. In New York you don’t really get that so much – just people absolutely losing their minds.” In his drum programming it is easy to hear footwork influences, another genre he says opened him up to a whole new world of musical possibility: the skittering hats, the triplet inflections, especially on tracks like ‘Florida’. But while footwork is made for ankle-breaking nighttime scenes, Potential is as much for the bedroom as it is for the club. There’s something beautifully downtempo, unhurried, about his explorations, recasting those found vocal samples as ethereal, otherworldly backbones around which gauzy, melancholic tracks can be built.
With Potential, The Range has a made an electronic record ultimately full of heart. The story is of the internet as the junction where humans from either end of the line meet at the nexus and something else, something unique arrives. Potential is a record steeped in histories – of its characters, of its forebears – but is startlingly new and alive: the network may be ones and zeros but the circuitry here runs on blood, still.
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001