The Phantom Family Halo – The Legend of Black Six

The Phantom Family Halo
The Legend of Black Six

Perhaps best described as “quiet psychedelia,” The Phantom Family Halo’s music comes off as a cross between Low and Dead Meadow. You’ve got the occasional riffing and the spacey, mysterious lyrics from whatever Hawkwind or maybe Blue Cheer album, but you’ve also got some understated and gentle tracks on The Legend of Black Six.

The distant, hazy tunes mix some 70s-sounding production values with some less-used instrumentation (“bowed bass”) to set a pretty consistent mood throughout. “In the Back of My Head” throws some creepy noises into your headphones, somewhere far away from the steady bass and almost spoken-word singing. A lot of times bands like this reverb the vocals and bury them in the mix, but that’s not the usual modus operandi on this disc. Instead they’re right up front. And while other bands might have gone for some rock-chop drumming to pummel the tunes into your head, again not so with The Phantom Family Halo. You can go songs without so much as a snare drum.

The title track takes 15 minutes to unfold. Its middle passage is noisy and otherworldly, separating the Sgt. Peppers lead-in from the 5 minutes of plaintive coda the closes it out. “Stop the Biting” sounds like early Grifters, when that band was still deciding how to use its instruments. The overtly psychedelic “Slender Head” has the kind of guitar line that you expect when you hear the genre name-checked, but it isn’t so much a stomping rocker as it is a sudued exploration. While it has some of the hallmarks of past influences, it’s decidedly more patient and relaxed.

The only tune that really approaches the rock side of stoner-rock is “Broken By The Way.” It’s got the half-time tambourine and the sinister choruses, the fuzzed-out guitar, the pedestrian low end, and a few drum fills. But even this tune isn’t too heavy, really.

The Legend of Black Six doesn’t sound like a band exerting itself. It sounds like a few friends putting together some (tongue-in-cheek?) tunes to show that they can travel back in time and conjure some of what the late 60s and early 70s found so appealing in its Pink Floyds and its Roky Ericksons. But this time around, the band wants to re-imagine the sound as it would have sounded had the musicians been on depressants and not so much of the stimulants.