The first minute or so of Phaser by Infinite Drive aka Mafew Karl had me thinking I was in for a Elliott Smith style singer/songwriter type of album. As the first song "A Catalyst Within Reactions" progresses Karl adds intense drums, psychedelic effects and white noise. Some of it works but I also felt like he was trying to fit in too much. I thought the song would have been more effective stripped back with his vocals and guitar because those are the most emotionally resonant parts and are the most effective. He has the gift of being able to sing and write a good song. The over-produced song takes away from that.
The first song is a microcosm of the way the entire album plays out. Like a kid in a candy store Karl doesn't always know when enough is enough and doesn’t let the songs breathe. That being said, there are a number of songs that hit the mark. There are quite a few times where the production tricks elevate the song and work to his and our benefit.
The second song "Hoodie Hoodlum" is a solid song overall. It could have done without the warbly synths but just the guitar and vocal melody. "Zone Rouge" is light and poppy while "Heiroglytching" has a surplus of changes." "Jaundiced Journalism" is a softer sounding song that he still manages to pack in with a ridiculous amount of sounds.
The nine-minute behemoth "Bio/Psycho" delves into down-tempo chill wave James Blake style production. As the album progresses there are a number of songs that are filled with a surplus of sounds such as "Apartment Waltz" as well as the ten-minute closer "California" which had some similarities to M83.
The sheer length of the music on Phaser is overwhelming. At thirteen songs with a number of them being over the six-minute mark I was having a hard time making it to the end without a break. The length of the album combined with the endless palette of sounds was often too much.
Don’t get me wrong I credit Karl with being this ambitious and I think he has a good amount talent as a songwriter, singer and within sound design itself. At this point all he needs to do is trim the fat and shed the excess calories. Just because we live in a digital age where an endless amount of sounds are available doesn't mean you have to use them all.
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