There’s something quite unsurprising about Phèdre being composed of a rotating cast of musicians and the fact that much of their identity is shrouded in mystery. The music showcased on their self-titled debut full-length is a combination of different sounds covered in a veil of lo-fi. It’s as if the band set out to make a record that emulated the group’s personality, or maybe the other way around. Things like that can easily go awry. When you think about things too much they tend to come off as unnatural. However the surprise here is that the record, as sporadic as it sounds, actually works pretty well.
The first full track on the record, “Aphrodite,” showcases the group’s stitching of sounds. The fuzzy quality of the lo-fi recording can cloak some of the noises, but that only makes returning to the track that much more fulfilling. The main vocals are accompanied by an otherworldly yell in the background creating a macabre atmosphere. The track eventually leads you into a false sense of calmness as a serene synth line begins to carry the track. This all ends when the lines “All of a sudden my Aphrodite/She died, she died” reappear, making the once serene-sounding synth line seem like something out of a horror movie.
While the next track “Cold Sunday” also implements a variety of sounds and keeps its bizarreness factor, most of the remaining tracks stay relatively grounded. Fans of post-punk should enjoy “Ode to the Swinger.” The low-key vocals mixed with the thumping bass evoke thoughts of some of the more lo-fi sounding post-punk records. If you look closely however you’ll find an array of strange sounds that burrow themselves beneath the surface. They’re inconspicuous enough to pass by unnoticed but are still there for those who enjoy some more experimentation.
Tracks like “In Decay” and “Dreams” are arguably some of the most accessible tracks on the record. The former even takes on an upbeat nature. The constant piano is toe-tappingly happy and the dual male and female vocals make it a nice, if not slightly bizarre, sing-along. “Dreams” is a bit more somber and more electronically driven. The vocals are somewhat melancholic, despite the “pa pa pas” that accompany them.
Phèdre is definitely a strange group that isn’t without its quirks. The whole collage of ideas approach they have may throw some listeners off. However at the end of it all the record does stay somewhat grounded. Its influences are clear, although they tend to vary from track to track. Some songs may be easier to get into than others, but there is still enough in each song to keep listeners interested for quite a bit.