Karl Culley - Phosphor - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Karl Culley - Phosphor

by Jim Harris Rating:10 Release Date:2014-04-06

There are a lot of superlatives to be conjured up for Phosphor by Karl Culley: Brilliant, dynamic, beautiful, etc. But what is particularly striking about this album by Mr Culley is how a musician can wrench so much power and depth out of creating complex notes and rhythms from a particular style of finger-picking on an acoustic guitar. 

You add to that a strong and complementary vocal style which fits as an instrument lilting and weaving through these sparse yet percussive songs, and you have, in Phosphor, one of the finest  indie-folk releases, if not one of the finest alternative albums, thus far this year. Phosphor is that good. Music is always judged by how compelling it is to the listener, and frankly, how frequently you listen to it. Phosphor commands repeat listens.

While there is primarily just a singer with an guitar here, the urgency and complexity of each song, and how nothing seems to repeat itself throughout, and the multi-layers of sound and rhythms which come out of playing multiple chords at once on a guitar, well... It has to be heard to be appreciated.

Add to all that lyrics which tell stories as simply as observing a dragon kite floating in the air or a harsh and beautiful take on alcohol, all executed in a near manic, baroque pace.While his voice is less harsh than Richard Thompson (and stronger, in my humble opinion), Karl Culley still leaves the listener with similar chills of appreciation as he rips his way through a song.

The opening song, ‘Bag of Tricks’, lulls the listener into thinking we may be in for another introspective and deliberate singer-songwriter, but even this has an edginess to it which works as excellent foreshadowing. The songs only get stronger and more compelling as the album moves along. Such songs as ‘Icarus and Whisky’ and ‘Runes’ stand out, but there is nary a weak track. 

The only thing missing from Phosphor is more songs but with 12 clocking in at over 42 minutes, we’ll just have to wait for his next one. In the meantime, this is one great album, folks.

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