Beijing duo Gong Gong Gong root their songs in a minimalist blues that incorporates traditional Chinese structures, but come out feeling like desolate, havok-wreaked tunes for the coming collapse. There’s tension at every corner of Phantom Rhythm and the pair aim it at the listener in waves of dustbowl devastation. With only two players (guitar and bass) it seems like they couldn’t keep the propulsion kicking with the kind of intensity they court for a whole album, but with the guitars scratching away a galloped gait and the bass fuzzing at the seams, the songs are breathless and biting. They leave room for nuance, though. While they always seem to wind up at a stomping gallop by the time the tracks close, along the way they prove themselves limber players who can snake through any musical opening.
On the slightly pedal-paced “Moonshadows” there’s still an urgency, but the band also finds themselves slinking through the shadows, quiet on their feet but keeping their hearts thudding hard in their chest as they weave through the wilds of rhythm. The fuzz if forever hungry in the heart of Phantom Rhythm and bassist Joshua Frank often lets his instrument act as the radical element in their dynamic, vaulting off of guitarist Tom Ng’s steady strut a low-end howl through the caverns of the mind. Though they’re packed into a Bo Diddly swagger sack on the surface, the record updates the folk-blues model for a thornier, more furious world. This is sweat-lodge high-vision choogle, a groove that slices between past and future. The future ate the past and only the dry scrape of Gong Gong Gong hangs ominously in the distance.
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