Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Phil and the Osophers - Figures of Speech on Factual Fabrications Records

It's been a while since I heard from Phil and the Osophers, there was one track, Uses of a man from Parallello which ended up on a mix at some point and really stuck with me, they had a nostalgic Clap Your Hands or even more recently an Art Museums (minus the synth...then isn't that a dumb reference? I give up) vibe, of loose instrumentation, catchy indie pop in a real unique nostalgic way.

The A-Side, "Figures of Speech", has a slow shimmery high organ melody introduce the low tempo psyche roll of this track. A choir, doubled vocal in it's own layered, lyric over each other way goes from angelic to epic. The melody here maybe shares something in common with a Sufjan composition in it's classical (well, to me anyway) complexity, a a micro opera, in the vein of Blueberry Boat, in the way that someone is a mad genius. There's a crazy rumble from an extended tom roll way underneath the track, which is not a part of the same space as the rest of drum kit which is heavily processed, the high hat could be built out of ancient low res samples. It get's almost epic with the the amount of orchestration here, a trumpet echoes the vocal melody and that plinky Hammond organ is on it's own free form improv trip. The whole track is buried under that distance thematically and literally while the vocal is really up front and clear, modern sounding. That mix of this classic, nostalgic sound with the indie pop leaning vocal is the unique angle Phil is taking the osophers. I know they're getting shit about their name from the Voice but
first of all, you could name a thousand bands with shitty names that are huge and no one gives it a second thought, that's sort of the point...to overcome whatever inherent association you have with the name, then you've done your job, secondly, in this case one of the members is actually named Phil, and third, this is just the sort of thing that makes them so interesting, that they don't agonize over this bit of sillyness, they didn't give it a second thought...they have a video with a mime! It's almost like they are challenging themselves...no on second thought it's more they aren't ever worried about the criticism, just like these tracks, it's a very specific kind of weird, just pointing it out is ridiculous. More bands could take this sincerely specific approach and stop emulating the last few albums that are hot.

"Ink on the Page" from the B-Side has this great far off surf tone, that wet reverb on the guitar, a catchy bassline while everything has been retracked through that special out of reach cave, the high note guitar melodies are all treble and just enough to drive the track.
But when the vocal starts it's an unexpected spanish folksong sort of idiosyncratic melody, a musical moment in that Sinatra film in a salsa nightclub when the femme fatale is introduced. It's such a particular mix of influences, mining deep into genre's while delivering it in indie pop ways. A lone guitar solo then goes over to the middle east for a moment, and then brings back the main melody with a gritty blues chord structure. Turns out the B-Side for me is the more successful track, taking those antique sounds and influences, delivering them with layers of lo-fi texture. The atypical osophers vocal and the roots of the track wildly varied...and an ending of the bassline with a wavering strum of a reverb guitar? Classic.

They carved out a really interesting niche for themselves, that's definitely evolving in even more mysterious directions than that first single from so many years ago.

Get it from the Osophers store, this one on a marble green vinyl, with a highlights magazine, '60s gameshow decor sleeve, lyrics and credits on the reverse.

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