Phosphorescent: Pride

By: Dennis Cook

I don't want to take and baby
I don't want to break and baby
I don't want to try and make you anyway
I just want to lie down, tell my crazy brains to lie down
And then fall away

A shiver that rises from deep within, a recuperative tremor that loosens tears and leaves our eyes clean, ready to see the aching beauty loose all around us. Phosphorescent moves with deliberate intensity, layering piles of spiritual phyllo dough that enfold the sweetness within. With the exception of "clacks" and a few human voices, Pride (Dead Oceans) is the creation of Matthew Houck, who melds brushed drums, chiming guitars, reverb soaked singing and a stratospheric reach that suggests a new fangled kind of country-gospel that just might reach all the black clad sad sacks who obsessively listen to Elliott Smith and Iron & Wine.

The crazy streets, amazing grief
The taste of sweet offerings
The blazing heat, the naked beasts
Great barrier reefs, all for thee

There's a sustained mood that's hard to put a finger on. Houck approaches the music with such tenderness and gentility that it's almost like he's courting it, wooing these sounds into the light. At times the results are ethereal ("Be Dark Night") and others equal the pastoral magic of Harvest-era Neil Young ("My Dove, My Lamb"). Phosphorescent draws no clear lines to his influences, but isn't so far in the wilderness to be elusive or overly clever. Instead, he floats in a world of his own making, one that resembles our own but shimmers more brightly.

Houck's knack for images that stick is uncanny, and his backgrounds serve to constantly heighten the intimacy level. It would be enough to start a song with this verse:

Mama there's wolves in the house
Mama they won't let me out
And mama they're mating at night
And mama they won't make nice

But then he works in the howls, growls and pretty cries of himself, Jana Hunter, Annie Palmer and Ray Raposa over a pleasantly unstable rhythm bed. The combination of elements puts you right in the back bedroom of that house, hoping the moonlight doesn't set the beasts off again.

Pride closes with "Cocaine Lights," which despite the title is the most languorous meditation here. Just as the narrator hopes to recover their sense of grace, the listener may just happen upon some of their own.

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http://www.myspace.com/phosphorescent

[Published on: 10/24/07]

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