Phi-Psonics ‘The Cradle’ LP/CD (Nightnote) 4/5

Phi-Psonics is a Los Angeles based project composed and produced by bassist Seth Ford-Young. What’s that, you (I) say? Another bassist-led date?! What is it with these multi-talented, modern bass playing dudes (see Matt Ulery, Dan Loomis etc.) that makes them think they can step above their station and BOSS IT? And what’s up with all those guitarists falling into the background these days? Ain’t it time you stepped up, my fellow egocentric six-stringers?

I dissonantly digress, my apologies. Back to the job at hand…Ford-Young is joined by two old Edward Sharpe bandmates (y’know Edward Sharpe – that lovely trippy-folk “Home” song from a decade or so ago that was so beloved by the advertising folk), Josh Collazo on drums and Mitchell Yoshida on Wurlitzer, while Sylvain Carton blows the woodwind (sax, flute, clarinet). Phi-Psonics is a six tracker of approximately 45 minutes.

First track, ‘First Step’, airs in on the tranquil and ethereal. Path finding (or following?) bass, querying flute and spiritual Wurlitzer shimmer. The organ is twinkly, nebular, not the slightly overdriven Om Supreme variety. It’s an expansive pursuance, a pause and elevation, a modest exaltation. Above all, it’s a gorgeously deep opener.
‘The Cradle’ is the second step; continuing the vibe but with a more sombre, motif-led Carton and a chord-comping Yoshida shaping the mood. Ford-Young and Callazo then cradle Yoshida as he diffidently explores, building to certainty and the return of Carton and the comforting motif.
‘Desert Ride’ is a suave jaunt. Poised and well-bred, Carton and Yoshida take us on graceful, slow, over-the-dunes glissades and float us seamlessly into the tender, dreamy ‘Mama’. ‘Mama’ has a moving warmth that avoids mawkishness by its unindulgent, reflective weightlessness.
The none-too-voluble ‘Drum Talk’ has deep tom Collazo create an uncomfortable wax and wane wash for Carton’s sax lament and ‘Like Glass’ has Ford-Young drip a gloriously loose, supine bassline for Yoshida and Carton to bathe in.

Phi-Psonics is an introspective, solemn spiritual jazz album. It isn’t demonstrative. It doesn’t communicate via speaking in tongues or cacophonous wail; it is patient and sensitive. This restraint is seductive and creates an intimate, snug, immersive soundscape that evokes thought and exploration but is never self-absorbed. Not sure a guitarist could’ve achieved that.

Ian Ward