Phantahex is part of a growing trend in Boise: improvised electronic instrumental music.
And while the multi-synth duo of Tristan Andreas and Grant Olsen has been pushing its way through the local scene in 2012, January brought the world at large the first chance to hear the group. Ghost Mission, a 15-track collection of the band's sketches, rehearsals and demos that was released as a purchasable download available through Bandcamp.
Chock full of chirps and rumbles, analog moans and clicks, as well as the dulcet tones of the elusive monochord--an instrument comprised of a single string extended along a 12-foot piece of steel pipe built by Andreas and played with a drumstick--Ghost Mission is a casually psychedelic journey through 1980s synthesizer fantasies and video game soundtracks.
Though less goofy than The Moog Cookbook or even Dick Hyman, Phantahex makes more deliberately artificial, occasionally corny sounds than contemporary electronic music.
The album's fourth track, "Ophelius Trajectory," doesn't have drums and is primarily a slow series of modulations added to a deep bass chord. Though the two don't sound much alike, the slow but constant modulation of a simple run of notes makes "Ophelius Trajectory" feel similar to "On the Run," from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
Another drumless track, "Warm Glow," invites listeners to soak in a slow and winding lead nearly jittery with tremolo. Andreas and Olsen can be faintly heard in the background, giving one another instructions as clear as figures in a mist.
Songs on Ghost Mission run anywhere from one to 10 minutes. Some have definable, engaging melodies, while others are slowly evolving patterns of sound.
The bottom line is that if you likes synths and know the name Walter/Wendy Carlos, you'll probably dig Ghost Mission. You'll also probably love it if you're stoned out of your gourd.
If, however, you are not any of those things, there's a decent chance you may find the album a slightly exhausting, potentially corny listen.