In their latest release, Dream Fire crafted their EP Phantasm as a modern funk dance pop composition. Based in Rutland, Vermont, Dream Fire was formed from a range influences including Franz Ferdinand, Earth Wind and Fire, MGMT and even Maroon 5. They recorded Phantasm in Saratoga, New York and had the tracks mixed in the guest bedroom of the lead singer’s house, Casey Garrow, somewhere in Los Angeles.
Even though Phantasm is only a four-track EP, it feels like a complete work. Phantasm wastes no time on a lengthy introduction at the beginning of “Risk Frisk,” the six-minute long first track. It jumps right in after a brief drum intro to a strong bass and guitar entrance. Dream Fire does not hold back from complex tempo changes as seen in “Risk Frisk” around 3:50 and again at 4:30 when the drums fall off dramatically. At this moment one of the stronger lyrics of the song come through, “I want to make tonight feel hollow,” amidst the positive beats. Most of this song, and the whole EP are predominately a throwback to 80s funk, but at the end of the bridge they remind us of their dance pop streak with a somewhat cheesy electronic bit thrown in.
Phantasm showcases Dream Fire’s compositional and recording talents with a musical tightness you would find in a jazz band that’s been together for years. The main bass riff in “Nightmares” is heavy, sexy, and a good counterbalance to the acapella style vocals. I would even say that the bass line, as a musical phrase, in this song is more successful at conveying feeling and momentum than the actual lyrics.
The second track, “Dopamine” is the best on the album. It accomplishes what the project set out to do for the whole EP: that 80s funk instrumentals and dance pop vocals really jive together. I would expect to hear “Dopamine” on the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack. The bass line is one to remember, and coupled with surprisingly deep vocals that focus more inwardly on the singer than the rest of the EP. “Dopamine” is worth a listen.
Overall the jazz guitar, funky bass, and tight timing are the highlights of Phantasm but are ultimately undercut by the amateur songwriting. I really hope to see lyrical improvement in their next full length to accompany their professional music phrasing.
Feminist listeners, beware, most of the lyrics are the male singer trying to convince a female subject to party with him, with problematic gems such as “her innocence was a little lie / move like you don’t have respect to lose.”
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