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Patrick Phelan | Songs Of Patrick Phelan (Jagjaguwar)
Often times I develop a kind of tunnel vision when it comes to music. For whatever reasons, I tend to devote more of my attentions towards identifying and exploring the sadder elements within the music I hear. Itís probably not a good thing - though I know Iím far from the only person guilty of such wallowing - yet it nevertheless colours the way I experience the world. Given these circumstances, I might normally have faulted Patrick Phelan for playing at the fringes of desperation instead of delving head-first into melancholy. Yet, had Phelan had my guidelines to obey, he would have most likely damaged the fragile equilibrium that strengthens his best material. To give the uninitiated some perspective, Phelanís compositions are within the Grubbsian genealogy. His voice reminds one of a humbled, more troubled David Grubbs, singing at a hush. Both artists use the same mellow, deliberate tensions within their artistic renderings of guitar and support instrumentation, yet Grubbs mainlines the avant garde, and places greater emphasis on technique and busyness (at least nowadays) than Phelan, whose compositions derive as much, if not greater strength from their simple, hymnal qualities. Phelanís chord changes generally denote shifts in mood and sentiment rather than the continuous architecture of a melodic concept. As a result, the album becomes more mysterious even as Phelanís intentions come clearer into view. This is the meditative type of record that leaves you with more questions than you approached it with, and like any good entertainment, it has you thinking about it long after the final note degrades.
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000