Album Reviews

Morgan Delt – Phase Zero

(Sub Pop) UK release date: 26 August 2016

Morgan Delt – Phase Zero In the two years since his debut Morgan Delt has smartened his act up considerably. The songs that populated Psychic Death Hole and his first self-titled album, were the sound of ’60s utopian psychedelia pushed through a darkened Lou Reed endorsed filter. There was a sunny, stoned blissed-out sound at play, but also a lo-fi haze and slightly disconcerting undertone on songs like Barbarian Kings or Mr Carbon Copy that found Delt exploring the hippy dream at the point that it turned into a nightmare (but not quite at Charles Manson levels). This time around, things are far smoother and not quite as lo-fi. The baked aspect of his songs remains, but this time around, he’s seems less likely to find himself in the midst of an unexpected downer.

This is immediately in evidence on the sun-kissed sound of I Don’t Wanna See What’s Happening Outside. Whilst the uncomfortable nature of the song is wrapped up in Delt’s hushed, barely there vocals as he relates exactly why he doesn’t want to see what’s going on, the upbeat nature of his music pours over his vocals almost insisting that he pulls himself together. On first impressions, Delt seems to be more inclined to exploring sunnier climes and more pop-toned vistas. Sun Powers feels like coming up as The Byrds start to jam with The Beach Boys just as the first rays of a new dawn hit the sea. Mssr. Monster meanwhile is an off-kilter meander through Grace Brothers as Delt re-purposes the theme tune to Are You Being Served?, dresses everyone in paisley shirts and pops a flower into the headstock of his guitar. Some people go to Tibet or a holy mountain in order to find themselves, but Mssr. Monster seems to suggest that you might find what you’re looking for in the soft furnishings department.

A Gun Appears is almost too dreamy for its own good, all soft focus and spidery guitar lines, but then the chorus hits and everything gains clarity once again as the hook digs in deep. Some Sunsick Day rounds out the album’s worship of the sun gods. Delt’s vocals are drift along in typical fashion, but the song’s mix, with the bass upfront and the guitars cutting through the fug give the song a focus that at times seems a little lacking elsewhere on the album. If you were going to pick a single from these songs, this would be it.

There are times when Delt’s hypnotic world becomes too all-enveloping. The album’s running order prevents the utterly gorgeous mystic swirl of The Age Of The Birdman becoming something that you get lost in, never to be seen again. The jarring angles of Mssr. Monster see to that. The one-two hit of The Lowest Of The Low and Escape Capsule however has the capacity to induce a warm, comfortable, and, it must be stressed, temporary coma.

On these two tracks, Delt’s vocals hang suspended in the ether surrounded by space and very delicate atmospherics. They’re both utterly ephemeral, and virtually impossible to get a handle on. The instant hit of I Don’t Wanna  See or Sun Powers seem a distant memory when lost in the haze of these two songs in particular. It would be possible to see them as an example of Delt losing his focus, but they actually feel like meditations that allow greater focus and the pay off that is Some Sunsick Day.

Phase Zero might not be as rough around the edges as its predecessor, but it’s still a strange and unusual beast. It is debt to its influences at times, but also idiosyncratic and mysterious enough to stand on its own two feet. Just don’t operate any heavy machinery whilst listening to it.

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