The Deal: More dark, transcendent beauty from ex-Athens denizen.
The Good: Matthew Houck chose an apt moniker in Phosphorescent, as his songs resonate long after they've faded back into the dark, hallowed places they emerged from. Originally from Alabama, Houck recently relocated to Brooklyn from Athens, but he belongs to the same Southern gothic school that birthed Will Oldham, David Eugene Edwards and Vic Chesnutt. There's an ethereal, backwoods-church feel to the music; with his fractured warble, stacked harmonies, wheezing harmoniums and image-rich narratives, Houck's deliberately paced songs sound like twisted hymns emanating from the mist of narcotic dreams. The yips, howls and ghostly cries of the title track especially conjure a speaking-in-tongues choir praising a God/Gods still shrouded in mystery and beauty. There's an actual choir on one song and exemplary backing vocals from Liz Durrett on another, but otherwise Houck is responsible for everything. The arrangements are also less twangy than his previous efforts; they still sound disheveled and ramshackle initially, but eventually reveal their own sublime logic, and the pay off is handsome if you're patient. Houck's elliptical narratives also belie their considerable weight – rich, economical metaphors using biblical imagery to inspire spiritual yearning free of judgment, piety, and hypocrisy.
The Bad: The slow pace will undoubtedly alienate some. While that's largely their loss, another song or two at something other than a processional pace would probably only enhance both in the contrast.
The Verdict: Graceful, in the truest sense. (They'll be playing at the Black Congo house, 1311 Rama Road, on Nov. 4.)