The Phonosonics End Of The World Review

The Phonosonics – The End Of The World – Review

The Phonosonics: The End of the World Single Review by Mr Topple for

Canadian west coast Roots Reggae veterans the Phonosonics’ latest single is an 80s-inspired, dystopian Roots nightmare – but in a very good way, of course.

The End of the World sees the band continue to move forward from their original early Reggae and Rocksteady sound – here, creating something dark and brooding. Written by the group, and produced by members Spencer Cleave and Anthony Shackell, the mastering by Brock McFarlane is a slick and efficient affair – focusing on the overall, unsettling landscape of the main arrangement to bring an ominous tone to proceedings.

The influence of an 80s-styled sound is clear from the start. Luis Meneses’ bass has been engineered to be slightly dystopian: distorted, grimy, and eery. Its repetitive, hypnotic riff compounds this issue and blurs the lines between the Roots elements of the other instrumentation and something more Electro. For example, Matt Shamas’s keys run a standard bubble rhythm, the mid-range of their register – but at times there’s some clever, rhythmic reverb run across them. However, at others they break out into impromptu, imposing riffs – played forte and slightly higher up. Then, Aidan Snider’s guitar does a pleasing skank – and these three elements combined make for a driving, forward-moving sound.

Interestingly, Ned Saric’s drums deviate from a standard one drop – with the kick performing a four-to-the-floor, while the snare hits the offs and hi-hats fill the spaces in between. This again makes End of the World more dominant in terms of momentum than standard Reggae. Saric does some interesting additional rolls across the snares and tom-toms at times which are forceful.

Then, the horn section consists of Cleave on the sax, and Shackell and Dave Bamford both on trumpets. Their use is sparse, except to mark the end of the bridges with some sudden, forte, and pointed riffs, layered with harmony – which almost provide an additional vocal, and serve to effectively be the chorus at points.

The arrangement also draws on elements of Dub – with the instrumentation coming in and out to give veritable breaks. There’s a lot of intricate engineering here as well, with keen attention to detail on Dub again – think reverb on the vocals, dampening of the keys at points, and that pleasing distortion of the bass. There’s also a brilliant final bridge, where the drums increase in activity – almost like the brewing of the ‘storm’ mentioned in Cleaves’ vocal.

On that, he is a solid performer with a good vocal quality. His range sits in a tenor register, but one that never feels forced. He makes good use of dynamic colouration to accent the lyrics; his performance is fluid, using lots of legato but also employing staccato notes when the arrangement requires them, and Cleave displays good breath control especially across the verses. His overall vocal is quite haunting (with nice glissandos at points) – and is complemented by Katie Hegan’s backing ones perfectly. At times, she runs the same melodic line just an octave higher – and at others there is intricate harmonisation to cement the Roots/Dub vibes.

Lyrically, End of the World is a pertinent and potent narrative about how society is so divided – whether that be through politics, the isolating effects of social media, or just the system’s promotion of individualism. However, the message is that despite all this, when the time comes unity is what’s needed – and that as a society, and as a planet, we can achieve this if we just break the shackles of what the system puts upon us.

Overall, End of the World is a sterling piece of work from the Phonosonics. Haunting, thought-provoking, and highly unsettling, musically it’s a fascinating mix of Roots, Dub, and something very 80s Electro/Synthwave. Cleave and Hegan’s vocals are solid, and it’s a lyrically important piece of work. A dystopian nightmare, but one that is very much required listening.

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The Phonosonics – The End Of The World Review by Mr Topple / Pauzeradio PR Services (6th July 2023).

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