Hailing from the historic German city of Weimar, PHOSPHENES is a band centering on the creative connection shared by singer and lyricist Julee Bee with collaborator producer/composer Harry Starbuck and first formed only last year under this banner. Their recording debut Find Us Where We’re Hiding begins with a snippet of ambient atmospherics before segueing into a patient and lush synth intro. Bee’s voice enters with a spectral presence quite unlike anything else I’ve heard in recent memory and the post-production touches enhancing her vocal presentation are never overwrought. Starbuck’s avowed influences from bands like Pink Floyd and their ilk never overtly present themselves but, instead, are reflected in the particularly dramatic textures characterizing the music. There’s a quasi-orchestral quality to this opener many will find as appealing as I did. “Girls Trip” has a much more definite shape than the opener and clearer pop inclinations, but it’s cut from the same stylistic cloth. It opens with a number of flourishes before launching into the main body of the song and it has a fine propulsive quality. Interspersing the more straight forward passages with airy breaks is quite an effective way of presenting the tune.
“People You Love Become Ghosts” starts off with some artfully controlled guitar feedback and is soon joined by a synthesizer swell and a plaintive, practically skeletal piano melody. Acoustic guitar soon fleshes out the aforementioned piano line with additional color. It’s the first instrumental on Find Us Where We’re Hiding and reaches rather chaotic heights in its second half before PHOSPHENES bookends it with a pensive, muted conclusion. The stark, haunted soundscape of “Radio Effects” is another effective instrumental piece and definitely suggests a melancholic mood without ever lapsing into self indulgence or over exertion. The moody atmospherics continue with the song “Breathe” and we are treated to another emotive and deeply musical vocal from Julee Bee. She’s an ideal singer for this material and the lyrical content has a ear catching poetic quality without ever losing sight of its role.
There’s a stronger guitar presence in the song “Galaxy Jump” than many of the earlier compositions and the track achieves its apparent goal of mixing a vocal with the ambient instrumentals we’ve encountered so far on Find Us Where We’re Hiding. One of the abiding qualities of the collection as a whole is the surefooted sense of structure defining these cuts and the dramatic framework makes them appealing listening experiences even when they lack any conventional melody. The second to last composition on the album, “Angel”, has a more ominous and foreboding sound than we experience with a number of the earlier numbers and the vocals share some of that lightly alien quality as well.
Find Us Where We’re Hiding ends with “One Trick Pony” with a final reminder of the lush beauty Bee achieves working in concert with Starbuck’s powerful collages of music and pure sound. Everything, once again, strikes me as windswept and aiming for an epic feel it achieves without ever straining for effect. PHOSPHENES definitely wants to engage listeners’ imaginations with this release along with their emotions and, despite the expansive electronic textures, there’s an ample amount of songcraft at work to satisfy any serious music fan.