The Phantom Band releases Checkmate Savage January 27th, 2009 on Glasgow label Chemikal Underground. Recorded in Glasgow at the label’s own Chem 19 and then in Franz Ferdinand’s Govan facility, this record features Paul Savage of The Delgados as producer, engineer, and guiding force. The recording sessions were like their early jams: long, meandering and experimental; the band beating out rhythms on broken wood blocks and organist Andy’s ‘shelvaphones’, a home-made instrument created from metal shelf brackets.
This early contender for album of the year is a place where Beefheart meets Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, where Neu! meets Nick Cave. â€œWhen you have been playing together for a good while you’d be amazed at the breadth of music you come up with. We ended up playing stuff that was folk, pop, techno with guitars, classic rock, metal, noise terrorism, gospel, soundscapes and parodied every band that we hated as well – it was great fun,â€ says bassist Gerry of their prolonged sessions.
The end result is truly special, bringing to mind the beat savvy of The Beta Band, the other-worldliness of Super Furry Animals and the mood of Hallowed Ground-era Violent Femmes.
If it sounds like they’re hard to pin down, that’s the idea. They called themselves The Phantom Band after a period of switching their identity with each successive gig, performing as Wooden Trees, Robert Redford and more. Early photos of the band pictured them with bags over their heads. It’s all part of their mystery and sense of the bizarre: some shows have seen them play with a giant, smoke breathing wolf head, others, with a Stairmaster onstage so audience members can work-out during their set.
In addition to The Phantom Band, the individual members each make music in other projects and guises, some better known than others. A few of them have an offshoot band called Omnivore Demon, a costumed improv group that play mostly at exhibitions and art events while Rick does solo folk stuff under the name of Rick Redbeard. Each Phantom brings a strong sense of identity to the project, counting artists, social workers, librarians and lawyers in their ranks. Never short of ideas and opinions, the entire band take a key interest in the album artwork, posters and onstage visuals that all add to this extraordinary bandâ€™s immersive world. Checkmate Savage is releasing January 27th, 2009 on Chemikal Underground.
01. The Howling
02. Burial Sounds
03. Folk Song Oblivion
06. Left Hand Wave
08. Throwing Bones
09. The Whole Is On My Side