One of the most intriguing and beguiling releases last year was Phantoms vs Fires’s Swim(released via Burning Witches Records.) That album seemed to absorb everything it came into contact with and reflected it back to the listener in some beautifully alien way. It was an electronic album that sounded to be built out of individual emotional moments transferred into beats, melodies, and ghostly strings. Bits of synthwave, horror scores, ambient-scapes, and dream-like chamber music all came thru the skewed and individual heart and mind of Phantoms vs Fire’s creative center, graphic artist and musician Thiago Desant.
Thiago Desant has returned with a brand new Phantoms vs Fire album, the buoyant and absorbing WLDLFE. Released thru German label Blackjack Illuminist Records, WLDLFE feels lighter and more easily unlocked than last year’s Swim. There’s more of an 80s flair to WLDLFE, digging into the more catchy and propulsive world of dance floors and the mysterious night life of the club dweller. But as with Swim, Phantoms vs Fire never does music as a paint-by-numbers exercise. The melodies and rhythms carry you along to some kind of alternate reality version of what you recall the 80s to be. A dreamy reflection of what was, or what you think it was.
WLDLFE doesn’t really pick up where Phantoms vs Fire left off with Swim, as much as create a new path for the listener to follow. There’s still the mystery and gorgeous eeriness, but light is being let in on this record. There’s an airy quality here, as if a window was opened and a cool, salty breeze hits your cheek sending a chill down your spine.
You know Desant has decided to take things in a different direction as soon as album opener “Plastic Animals” kicks in. It’s big and bright and noisy, as if Boards of Canada were being devoured by 80s Tangerine Dream. A succulent, sonic delight. “Ghost Fauna” continues that classic BoC vibe, as if those Scottish brothers got a tan and ate a great meal by the seashore before hitting the studio. There’s also an 60s Italian vibe as well that pulls you in mid-way thru. And I absolutely love “Cave Dreams”. There’s such and optimistic lean here, full of ‘car-windows-down-on-a-summer-afternoon-and-cruising-till-the-tank-runs-dry’ wistfulness. Com Truise and FM-84 territory.
It’s not all 80s neon and dreamy optimism. The melancholy “It Ends” feels like heavy contemplation, while “Cycle” sounds like deep Euro techno. Moderat melting into lonely Kraftwerk and spectral strings. “Brighid” closes things out with the coldness of a Nordic winter; dreamy contemplation on the cusp of something essential as your eyes flutter and you wake.
WLDLFE continues an amazing run of truly inspiring work from Thiago Desant, aka Phantoms vs Fire. The music here is more spirited and less haunted, but it nonetheless stays with you long after the last song fades. WLDLFE is a stunning work of musical exploration and harmonious creativity.
Phantoms vs Fire’s WLDLFE will be released on 3/1 via Blackjack Illuminist Records. Preorder here.
8.4 out of 10