Courtesy of the artist
Phantogram's "Don't Move" seems beguilingly simple, but there's a lot going on beneath the surface.
Phantogram's "Don't Move" seems beguilingly simple, but there's a lot going on beneath the surface. Courtesy of the artist
Song: "Don't Move"
CD: Nightlife EP
Recording under the name Phantogram, upstate New Yorkers Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have spent the better part of the last decade combining hazy, trip-hop-inflected electronic sounds with gauzy pop melodies. With their recent Nightlife EP, a collection of songs written while touring, the two show a more practiced hand with the tools they've been using all along — the bank of sounds at their disposal remains the same, but they're showing a keener ear for clever arrangements.
There's a beguiling simplicity to "Don't Move" — at first listen, it's all smoothly shuffling beats, airy vocals and shimmering synths. Hiding underneath the obvious hooks, though, is a densely layered web of samples and melodies pinging off one another. With each successive exposure, it becomes clearer that the more immediately catchy sounds are only so obvious because they're held up by this swirling, shifting undercurrent.
Many bedroom producers adopt a "more is more" approach and stuff a track full of as many sounds as possible without any apparent editorial process, but Phantogram has enough good taste to piece together an array of sounds into an arrangement that makes sense. The duo has been playing to this strength more with each successive release, and it seems likely to help Phantogram endure: The band isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, just searching for new ways to make it spin smoothly.