“No Soul” – Fantasmas

A blurry, spiky surge of noisy guitars powers this three-minute keeper from a young Brooklyn band calling themselves Fantasmas. Amidst the punk-ish ambiance I sense a great deal of poise. I like that particular juxtaposition, so here you are.

Note the long introduction (unusual for this kind of music), and note that it starts off the tonic—meaning, away from the key in which the the song is written. (Whatever that pulsating, semi-dissonant chord-like thing the guitars are slashing away at for 45 seconds is, it’s not the home chord.) This is a sneaky yet time-honored way to keep you listening, because our ears, bless their simple needs, just want to be brought home. At 0:45 (phew), we are shifted into the tonic, get 12 more seconds of slashing guitars, and only then we get to see what the song is really about. Which is pretty much more slashing guitars, but now they are sculpted around minimalist lyrics—eight pithy blurts per verse—delivered with indelible New York City-style blasé-ness by a vocalist identified only as Kam. (I especially like his nearly-spoken lines at 1:56.) While the guitars are given a lot of opportunity to go at it—there’s even a guitar break in the middle of the chorus somehow—the song still manages to give us a larger feeling of space than noisy guitars alone usually convey. Some of this probably has to do with how the guitars are dialed back during the sung parts of the chorus; we get much more tension than noise here, a seemingly small detail with a large impact on our listening experience.

Fantasmas are a relatively new quartet from Brooklyn. The name is Spanish for ghosts, and this new band is not to be confused with Fantasma (a cumbia band from Argentina) or Los Fantasmas, an obscure quintet from the Isle of Wight. “No Soul” is the second half of their debut two-sided seven-inch single, the first imprint served up by Low Life Inc., a Brooklyn-based music promotion firm that recently started a label. You can download the song as usual via the link on the title above, or via the record company’s SoundCloud page. The single came out in December, but I only recently came across it, thanks to The Mad Mackeral.