Album Review: Phoria – Volition

Melatonin, the opening track of Volition, the long overdue debut album from Brighton based electonic group Phoria, sums it up. Shades of James Blake (an almost constant influencer in these days of electronic soul) purvey througout, but there’s also some Sigur Ros in there with its winsome melodies and ambitious musical sensibilities and some of Moby’s eye for the beats, never mind how melancholy (and in this case, it really is) it is. There’s these synth lines, always (at least when it matters) moving across the beat so its almost blurred, while guitarist Jeb Hardwick noodles effortlessly between the gaps. Singer-songwriter and head honcho Trewin Howard is in possession of one of the most affecting, effecting voices we have heard in a while. He has it within his grasp to make you cry, should he so wish.

Follow on Red, shows the band Howard and Harwick are joined by piano/synth player Ed Sanderson, drummer Seryn Burden and bass/synth player Tim Douglas, can handle something a little more disjointed, more (sort of) glitchy, stuttering with 808 claps and a bass drum being the only beats laid down under the piano, whcih manages to almost match Howard for emotion. Almost.

Everything Beta, more uplifting than anything on the album, is almost a welcome break for the hankie fest thats come before it (and also to follow), but there’s still enough melancholy in the track to make sure that its never too far from the heartstrings. It’s got this buzzsaw bassline that rumbles though your shoes, as it strives for (and realises) these slow peaks and troughs. Mass, in contrast, is almost hymnal and static. Things move slowly and the texture (and subsequent emotion) lies very thick. The skill in the record comes from all this emotion being laid bare in front of you, but still, you can’t drag yourself away and switch off/over. By the Salt again plays on the religious sounding textures, but offers some hope for the future, despite the fact it clocks in at under one minute.

In the second half of the record, there’s more melodies that whisper straight to your heart in the shape of Loss, Undone and the brilliant Emanate, all with their own characteristics – Loss with its unadulterated sadness and yearning strings, and the other two with their trickling body percussion and effortless cool. In between there’s some lightness to the shade in the shape of the twisting Undone.

In Saving a riot, Phoria play at Elliott Smith (successfully, as it happens) and the album closes with the pulsating heartbreak of Yourself still. At times it’s sad, at times emotionally draining, but its beautiful and irresistible throughout. A must listen.

Volition is out now on X Novo Records.

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