Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Feb. 4, 2005
Fantasmas (Golden Hour)
If Glorium hadn't gone on hiatus in 1997, it's not so hard to imagine a scenario in which the Austin/San Antonio quintet moves to Brooklyn, signs with Matador, and becomes a significant force in American indie rock. That's how prescient Fantasmas is. Glorium would've fit right in with the Liars, Interpol, and TV on the Radio, but their free-flowing aesthetic skew goes deeper than that, calling on early touchstones like Can and the Red Krayola. Fantasmas consists of Glorium's unreleased final recordings along with assorted nonalbum tracks. Recorded 1992-1997, this surprisingly cohesive album bottles Glorium's tension-filled art-punk prowess as it evolved. The 1996 tracks produced by John Croslin may be the pinnacle of their studio work. "The Double" nails the role of "Teen-Age Riot," kicking off with a slowly enveloping tornadic sweep of guitars cut by the steady burst of snares. "Black Market Hearts" revolves around a hypnotic synth groove and the desperate, whirling dervish vocals of Paul Streckfus, while "Psyklops" heaves and groans like the score of some obtuse arthouse monster movie. "Brownie Hawkeye" mines a broken-down Motown drive crossed with jagged Birthday Party theatrics to produce something almost resembling a lead single. Glorium's remarkable ability to harness dramatic tension without falling victim to pretension is evident even on early nonalbum tracks like the 1993 live recording of "Mother Machine" and '92's explosive "Divebomb." Though speculating on what might've been is ultimately best left to the mind's eye, this album is undeniably special.