Phantoms (Modern Outsider)
Reviewed by Richard Whittaker, Fri., Sept. 9, 2011
UmePhantoms (Modern Outsider)
Break out the 4AD catalog circa 1994. Ume evokes the label's golden shoegazing era so perfectly that Phantoms should come with a cover by Vaughan Oliver (the Breeders, Pixies, Throwing Muses). Like Lush's underrated Split, the hardworking Austin trio's debut full-length balances precariously between psychedelic swoon and refined power-pop. Lauren Larson's layered vocals even echo the spectral harmonies of that UK quartet's Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi, yet with a hint of Curve's Toni Halliday in the world-weary slink of "Rubicon." Only on the closer, "The Task," do the locals go all wistfully acoustic, but in the interim, the lithe, live beast that is Ume cannot be restrained on the breathy pulse of "Captive," merging its wall of sound with pure, overdriven glory. The studio gives focus to Larson's pulverizing guitar work, tempering her onstage taste for eardrum-ripping distortion with a warm staccato that lets the shimmering hooks at the heart of "The Push" shine. "Destroyer" even adds a surfer twist, Dick Dale on a Death Valley night, carried on the long waves of husband Eric Larson's bass. Against all that depth, "Hurricane II" feels a little too stripped down and unfinished, especially since "Burst" pulls the roar back to a distant thunder so much more magically.