The first thing that hits you on Morgan Delt’s excellent Sub Pop debut Phase Zero is the breezy, island sway of “I Don’t Wanna See What’s Happening Outside”. Vocals just shy of a whisper cascade along a mellow, shuffling rhythm with wobbling guitars, synths, and a prominent proper meaty bass line holding it all together. It collapses into a blurry sheet of noise before “The System of 1,000 Lies” slinks into the auditory view like a shaman leading his congregation. What we’re hearing is a more focused and honed in Morgan Delt than what we heard on his 2014 self-titled album. If you’re looking for the acid-burnt, hazy garage rock of that LP you might be disappointed. If you’re looking to hear an artist progressing with his sound and allowing a little more sunshine in the mix, then you may be pleasantly surprised with Phase Zero.
First off, I think opening this record with the incredible “I Don’t Wanna See What’s Happening Outside” might’ve been a mistake. It’s hard to top a song like that. It seeps into your DNA a little more with each listen, making it feel like some lost classic than something recently created. But that’s not to say the rest of the album isn’t that good. It’s just that the opening song is that good. As stated before, much of the noisy, distorted glee of Delt’s previous record has been cleaned up for his Sub Pop debut. In its place is quiet, contemplative, and gorgeously hazy pop that has more in common with The Wondermints debut album than something from the LSD-soaked Nuggets compilation. There’s still plenty to dig. It’s just more zone out that freak out. “Mssr. Monster” has a more prickly demeanor with a Sugarloaf vibe, and “The Lowest of the Low” sounds like Delt slowly fading into pure light inside of an echo chamber. But for the most part this album is a series of quietly psychedelic pop songs with Delt in low key mode. “Escape Capsule” feels like some mystical journey by boat from Sri Lanka to another dimension. “Some Sunsick Day” kicks and scrapes along with a Zombies take on a McCartney b-side, complete with a Sir Paul-approved bass line. “Another Person”, “Sun Powers”, and “The Age of the Birdman” all deliver with quiet beauty and a distant mysticism.
Morgan Delt is in good company, with the likes of Ty Segall, Kelley Stoltz, Thee Oh Sees, and Dead Gaze, along with Delt himself cooking up a mixture of frizzled closet pop, garage rock, and kaleidoscopic psych. On Phase Zero Morgan Delt has shown some musical maturity, trading in his lo fi vibes for a more textured, intellectual, and if not hi fidelity, at least a mid fidelity take on songwriting and studio wizardry.
With the last remaining moments of summer waning, here’s your chance to drive into a few summer sunsets with a proper soundtrack to lose some light to.