Phantom Ghost

To Damascus

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Phantom Ghost's second album is the first fruit of a link-up between the long-running Ladomat 2000 and the German wing of Mute. It's a fitting match, since Dirk Von Lowtzow and Thies Mynther's material often straddles the thin line between moody dance and indie, much like a number of Mute-proper artists for over the past two decades. To Damascus improves on the disjointed debut, an album that shuffled between alternately downcast and sublime electronic pop and rather middling indie. Here, the two extremes more or less meld into each other; and while there's nothing on the level of "Perfect Lovers" or "Electronic Alcatraz," the number of low moments are less frequent, making the listen far more consistent when compared to its predecessor. Despite this development, To Damascus is no departure. In fact, the opening title track has a great deal in common with "Perfect Lovers," with similar rolling, synthetic toms and a flickering guitar figure that might've even been taken directly from that excellent 2001 single. Roughly half of the album consists of a relatively upbeat take on modern synth pop, all of which is on par with the best moments from Erlend Øye's Unrest and Lali Puna's Scary World Theory. Like those two acts, Phantom Ghost create a sense of comfort with warm electronics -- one that's welcoming in many surroundings -- yet they are also reliant enough on songcraft to attract plenty of clubphobic indie fans. It's too bad Mute didn't get this distributed in the States.

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