The album title Phantasmagoria might conjure frightening feelings from memories deep in your childhood. The spooky form of European theatre is hundreds of years old, but most modern day American’s recognize its influence more through Disney movies and their theme parks. More than just the ghostly themes, it’s the use of illusion that’s more prevalent. Octopus Jones front-man Danny Martin found it a perfect album title because it “confused dreams with reality.” Octopus Jones new album does just that with haunting guitars and melodies, Martin’s songs leading to writhing dancing, while Tyler Morris sung songs come off more heady, a darker shoegaze.
With Martin and Morris splitting singing duties for the first time on album, things are much different for Octopus Jones these days. For the years leading up to this project Octopus Jones was known more as a party band. Smart music still, but set out to cause a twist. With the departure of guitarist Blake Ratliffe and Chris Wilson when the band relocated to a home on 8 acres in Raleigh, NC late 2012, OJ slimmed down to a 3 piece getting their feet wet in their new scene. It wasn’t much long after when Tyler Morris moved up and joined the band, moving into the house where they would all live and write. Bassists Clay Carlisle has since moved out, but the Octopus Jones clubhouse is still the home base for writing for the band. Morris had spent his time before joining O Jones staying relatively low in the music scene after his former band Calculator fizzled out. While with Calculator he was churning out new music non stop, so the company of drummer Darrin Cripe, Carlisle, and Martin was all he needed to get the creativity flowing again.
For the recording of Phantasmagoria Octopus Jones went with Wolfgang Zimmerman who also plays drums in Charleston act Brave Baby. Zimmerman and Morris have a history of working together with Morris’ previous project Calculator, and for this album they found him a great fit. Zimmerman spent time in Raleigh in the club house at first recording demos, which later turned into the skeleton of the album.
While the songs on Phantasmagoria carry the style of the singer, there are moments like on “Don’t Taint My Tony” and “Phawn” where the two lines become one in a fantastic way. In many ways this is Octopus Jones debut album, and that’s taking nothing away from previous release Treat Yourself which put a stamp on spank-wave. Phantasmamagoria is a dark grower of an album. An album made for late night herbally and chemically induced listens that seem to open up another side to the album. It’s part of the lantern of illusion and O Jones is in control of every twist and unexpected turn.
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