Release Date: 12 Feb 2010
© 2010 Fluttery Records
Swallow Up The Moon is a new destination on Phoenix and the Turtle’s musical journey. Much like the changing emotions and experiences in life, the band shifts and shape their sound from desolate empty wastelands to towering crescendos. It is an aggressively dynamic record where the violin lines, keys are on run with vicious guitars and drums at a full gallop. There are some moments when the dynamism gives its place to peace as in the atmospheric romance of the third track, Stuart Drives A Comfortable Car. Written at the apex of two lovers parting, Swallow Up The Moon is four song introduction on Phoenix and the Turtle’s fruitful dreamlands. Cahn Curtis from the band says “This is the most complete thing we have done yet”. “Nothing we have done before comes close.” adds Bill Barrington.
Kevin Bronson, Buzzbands
I first ran across Phoenix and the Turtle in 2007 when the quartet played a blogger-curated event called Now Blog This (props to LA Underground for curating them). Their climate-changing post-rock, even in a small club with sketchy sound, turned the evening from good to revelatory. Shame on me for not keeping closer track the past couple of years, but the pride of the Inland Empire, with their Bard-inspired moniker, last week released a new EP, “Swallow Up the Moon” (via Fluttery Records). Fans of otherwordly soundscapes, string- and piano-infused euphony and boy/girl vocals will find a cinematic sweet spot in these four songs. It’s graduate-level art-rock.
Bluesbunny Music Reviews
When you think of California, you think of sun, sandy beaches, orange groves and bikini clad women - you can pretty much hear the harmonies and happiness that such things would bring to music from that part of the world. Then you hear the music of a Californian band like Phoenix and the Turtle who instead go altogether deeper into the shadows that come with modern day urban chaos.
This EP starts with "Line Drive" which features indie rock hallmarks like big drums and screeching guitars. Or at least it does until it swerves on to the highway to musical complexity showing almost classical sensibilities as that guitar returns to direct the song down another road towards prog rock city. "514" again shows a grandiose approach with a piano led swirling maelstrom taking the song to a suitably intense and dramatic climax. Though the focus remains on the instruments throughout, the oddly named "Stuart Drives A Comfortable Car" manages to squeeze in a good line or two such as "…I would have blown my brains out if I hadn't lost my mind".
From that last remark, you might well have reached the conclusion that this isn't a collection of happy songs. That's fair comment but the advantage Phoenix and the Turtle have over the preponderance of emo/shoegaze type bands is that they are short of neither musical ideas nor the ability to realise them. Sure, they are melancholic in a sort of Leonard Cohen kind of way but, unlike so many of their contemporaries, they stand tall and proud. Whilst perhaps not the kind of music that you would listen to on your journey into work, there is, however, much to be enjoyed here.
The fusion of rock and classical strings, while incorporating sparse vocals, sonically sound foundations and compositions lends to the uniqueness of this California quartet’s sound.
PHOENIX AND THE TURTLE: "Swallow Up The Moon" EP (Fluttery Records)
RELEASED? Out now.
SOUNDS LIKE? They sound like 'wow'. Theyreally do. I can rattle on about Sigur Ros like guitar clinics exploding in their weirdly coloured skies and gawp, slack jawed, and wonder how pleased or pissed off Roger Walters is going tobe when he hears this. I could even point out the gothic, creeping archly around jazz piano fills and the casual confusion between funeral and military drum beats. Yeah, I could do that, but I'd only be talking about the elegantly extended six minutes plus of "Line Drive" and have little space to...
IS IT ANY GOOD? Yes, yes, yes, it's wonderful and you should know about the oddly compelling synthesis of bass drone and pastel spangle on "Stuart Drives A Comfortable Car", it's almost like The Eels are driving very slowly towards a swamp based and very old Orpry, the strings are a fucking delight and the understated guitar is all sublime understatement and, just buy it. Buy it twice, give the other copy to someone you hate, confusion and pleasure, that's where it's at.
Trying to describe Phoenix and the Turtle’s style of music is like trying to explain to a sightless person all the brilliant colors that are found in a Jackson Pollock painting. The band’s music incorporates elements of classical, rock, experimental, progressive and jazz. Even mentioning all of those different styles I’m sure that I missed one or two more that could be also added to the list. While most music uses its vocal parts to put forth a message Phoenix and the Turtle’s music chooses to let the instruments do the talking and accent them with sparse actual vocal parts.
The four songs that make up this EP mostly start with long runs of instrument starts and just when you think it’s going to be an entirely instrumental track the vocals start up and blend in with them. The instruments used to fill up the songs include, violin, keys, guitars and drums. While the songs also feature both male and female vocals along with what sounds like audio taken from a TV or radio on the track, “514.” Two of the 4 songs that make up this EP have running times of over 6 minutes leaving the songs to run their full course and not chopped off just to be radio friendly. Those two songs are “Line Drive” (6:29) and “Stuart Drives a Comfortable Car”(6:26), both of which I thought were well done. I also liked the way the piano driven last track, “Wasted Days,” features interplay between the guitar and drum part that keeps darting in and out of the song.
While stylistically Phoenix and the Turtle’s music might not be everyone’s cup of tea, any lover of good music will appreciate all that they offer on Swallow Up the Moon.
As on their previous work, Swallow Up the Moon is a delightful fusion of instrumental rock, classical string and dreamy vocals. But with slightly more depth than they used to. Especially on the third track "Stuart Drives a Comfortable Car". A delicate piece about lost love, that draws on the heartaching images of oh so many folk-tunes, but still manages to be sober in the longing regrets. Phoenix and the Turtle is able to create haunting melodies in a welcoming, romantic post-rock dreamland.
In their music you can find influences from Sonic Youth, Especially on the riffs, from Blonde Redhead on the boy-girl vocals and on the piano sections, and of course you can easily spot some post rock gems. Four songs full on intense moments, neurotic outbursts but also with melodic parts and shades of melancholy.''
Absolute Zero Media Magazine
Alt Indie pop in the that fragile, drifting, dream pop style that bands like The Gathering, Radiohead & Sigur Ros have made so popular. There is always that southern lazy style mixed in with slightly off key male and female vocals. Another band Phoenix and the turtle have a big love for is Mazzy Star as the guitar and tones of piano and simple but very well done bass and string arrangements make this a down right beautiful sounding release . I really do wondering why so many of these bands do Ep's of material rather then just take the time to make full lengths gems. I would rather wait another 6-8 months and have a 60 minute title. Phoenix and the turtle could be ruling the college radio US airwaves right now for all I know as I'm that out of the loop. I just know what I like and its this... GET IT....
The Phoenix And The Turtle had released two CDs and got the attention of Fluttery Records. The band moves on the sharp edge where alternative rock with the length, tempo changes, the ambience, structure and use of traditional instruments have somewhat to the style of this site will be forthcoming. With a little imagination you can see this band hosts the illustrious list of groups or artists Anathallo, St. Vincent, Band of Horses or Warpaint.Particularly Line Drive is very strong.
The Teeth Of Devine
When Godspeed You Black Emperor! lent itself for post-rock to advertise and gain momentum, little did they know just how saturated the genre would become. Soon after, everyone seemed to have a band that played the music by the book, making it harder and harder for the casual listener to find the progressive elements the genre had before been known for. Even now, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd but Phoenix and the Turtle are definitely giving it a shot on their new EP, Swallow Up The Moon.
Most generic post-rock groups go for the traditional End of Days gloom, so Phoenix and the Turtle have found their own niche by going the other way. Musically, Swallow Up The Moon is a warm album with a positive, upbeat spirit, even if deep down it hints of the opposite. There’s a nostalgic, ’50s suburb feel to the music; taking the listener to a time and place where time stood still and everything, except the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, seemed perfect. Another thing to take note of is the clear flowing use of piano and strings, as they breathe freshness and playfulness to the music – spicing the slightly somber drumming and touchy guitar melodies and the more genre-faithful instrumental sections.
The band also employs both male and female vocals and when they sing the lines “I would have blown my brains out if I hadn’t lost my mind” in perfect harmony, it gives the listener a sense of relief; that everything’s alright, even if the world’s going to turn into shit. Their voices are easy on the ears as they sail on top of the music with a serene flow.
In a way, there’s that old singer/songwriter thing going on that kind of crosses the old but gold pop-music threshold. And I have to say, I’m liking it. It’s like sitting in your car, watching outside as the sun slowly sets while it paints the trees of green in gold and sepia with its last bright rays of light; and there and then― as was said―there’s not a single worry in the world.
Unfortunately Swallow Up The Moon is only 20 minutes long, as it truly makes me want to hear an hourful of this material. Phoenix and the Turtle are a welcomed acquaintance in a genre where it’s easy to get lost in the mass, as they actually do something slightly differently, creating a unique personality for their music. Swallow Up The Moon is definitely something to check out for all the dreamy shoegazers out there. And I’m one of them.
Music Musings and Miscellany
Phoenix and the Turtle are a Californian quartet who’ve been around since 2003. They trade in a kind of literate indie that sounds like it comes from some place between the National (and sister group Clogs) and Piano Magic. Line Drive, the six minute opener to Swallow Up The Moon kicks off with a glorious violin and guitar prelude before panning out into a multi-faceted piano led song that features the distinctive voices of Cahn Curtis and Valerie Ferguson (who for some reason reminds me of the Triffids’ Jill Birt).
Ferguson’s piano arpeggios feature heavily throughout the EP, giving the band a distinctive, busy sound, but one that never feels cluttered. 514 is a fairly high tempo romp, whereas Stuart Drives a Comfortable Car wears its alt-country influences proudly, without adopting the genre’s clichés
Phoenix And The Turtle is a Post Rock band from California formed in 2003 as a collaboration for a friend’s funeral. Their apparent weird name comes from a poem by William Shakespeare which deals with the death of ideal love.
Post Rock is known to be a very intense genre. When it comes to be this blended with other styles, its intensity might reach even more powerful levels. Phoenix And The Turtle decided to give every instrument the same importance as the vocals have, that are actually sparely used in the album. The variation of piano melodies, screeching guitars arpeggios and strings are there to express the songs feeling at their best. The general melancholic mood of the album stays quite the same for all the songs, but not the way it is brought to the listener. “Line Drive” might remind a little of a jazz sound where male and female vocals are well blended with the music. The rhythm of “514” is driven by the piano melodies which is widely used and prevails on the other instruments. As for the rest, the complexity acme is reached in the last two songs which could easily synthesize the band style. Especially “Wasted Time” carries such a dramatic but still innocent sound, made by Valerie’s voice, that appears extremely outstanding.
It’s pretty stunning the power that these only four songs can deliver, that in the end makes you crave for more. Too bad “Swallow Up The Moon” is this short, but while waiting for another album you can listen to this little masterpiece until you wear it out.