Thursday, March 15, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Phèdre - Phèdre

by Mark Gillis

Phèdre is the musical project of Daniel Lee, April Aliermo and Airick Woodhead. All three of these musicians are fairly well-known in the Toronto independent music scene. Daniel and April are both members of Hooded Fang. Airick is a current member of Doldrums and a former member of Spiral Beach. Given the musical background of these three, it was a tough task to predict what Phèdre may sound like. After listening to this album a few times over, I think it’s more than fair to say that they’ve created something unique from all their other projects. It seems apparent to me that Phèdre is being used as an outlet to create some interesting synthesizer psych-pop for the three musicians.

I have to say that even though this music is interesting, it’s not necessarily something that I’m particularly fond of. I think by biggest problem with this album is just how everything sounds. For one, I’m not a huge fan of drum machines no matter where they are. I think there are drum machines on at least some of these tracks; either that, or the drums just sound bad and don’t have much punch to them at all. I personally believe this sound works in very few places, and here isn’t a place where they sound right. Everything on this album sounds slightly lo-fi, and it’s not an endearing lo-fi. It’s more of an “I wish this sounded better” lo-fi. During the track “Aphrodite,” I swear there are these squeaks that the band stole straight from Mario paint composer. I just think a little bit better sound quality would have given this album a huge boost.

Throughout the album, Daniel, April and Airick all take turns contributing vocals. I think that Daniel is far and away the best singer; he has such a nice deep voice that just oozes pure sexiness. April honestly sounds a bit like a talking 12 year old here instead of a singer. She isn’t the best singer, and I think it really shows when her voice is put next Daniel’s. It also sounds really weird when she’s singing about sexual topics because her voice sounds so young. It makes me feel like a pedophile at times. Airick’s vocal numbers on this album here are few and far between when compared with those of Daniel and April. I think that he falls somewhere in between Daniel and April on the scale of vocal awesomeness, but when we do hear from him, his voice usually has some kind of vocal effect on it anyway.

The songs on this album feature a lot of very driving electronic beats coupled with some smooth and at times groovy basslines. The cold synthesizers along with those basslines offer up an interesting contrast that gives this album a little bit of something for everyone. I do find for the most part that a lot of the songs on Phèdre don’t do a lot that is very interesting. They have a fairly steady beat the whole way through without much variation. I’d like to see just a bit more evolution on some of these tracks.

The shining moment on this album is definitely “In Decay”. They ditch the repetitive synthesizers on this track for some really sunny guitars and keyboards. I think that Daniel’s voice is as strong as any other track on the album. I’d love to hear more music like this song from Phèdre. I think that the atmosphere and feeling they managed to create on this song is a lot more interesting than anything else on this debut album.

Although I wasn’t a huge fan of this release, I’ll be listening to whatever Phèdre puts out in the future. I heard some flourishes of brilliance that I hope will come more to the forefront on future releases.

You can follow me on Twitter @Mark__Gillis

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