Today’s Song: Brooklyn’s Phantom Wave Dwell in Ethereal Shoegaze Depths on Overdriven Upheaval “Billows”

Phantom Wave © 2021
Phantom Wave © 2021
A warm, ethereal wash of Brooklyn-born shoegaze, Phantom Wave’s new song “Billows” is an intimate upheaval of sound that immerses the senses with a tidal force of distortion and heavy, relentless feeling.
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Stream: “Billows” – Phantom Wave




A warm, ethereal wash of Brooklyn-born shoegaze, Phantom Wave’s 2021 return is perhaps the closest the group have ever come to bringing their band name to life in sound. “Billows” is an intimate upheaval of sound that immerses the senses with a tidal wave of distortion and heavy, relentless feeling.

Billows - Phantom Wave
Billows – Phantom Wave
Sometimes flying you are
castaway stars
gotcha up in mind
always inclined
and now what you doing?
better be proving what you want
and now what you doing?
better be giving all you got

Released January 8, “Billows” arrived earlier this year as the first single off of Phantom Wave’s forthcoming debut LP Wilds, out March 19, 2021. The dynamic duo of Ian Carpenter (guitar and vocals) and Rachel Fischer (drums), Greenpoint/Williamsburg-based Phantom Wave emerged from a hazey abyss about three years ago, and they haven’t looked back since. Their first release since last May finds them delving deep into their dream pop roots and embracing those key ingredients that make shoegaze the genre to “dwell in”: Carpenter’s glistening, reverb-laden guitars and Fischer’s fervent drums make a powerful backbone for a song ready to unleash a torrent of emotion on the unsuspecting listener.

“Billows” premiered earlier this month via Surviving the Golden Age, whose writer Adam Morgan praised Carpenter’s “vocal hook over the crescendo of fuzz, reverb and delay” for making the track truly memorable. Elsewhere, Essentially Pop‘s Lisa Hafey described “Billows” as “an ethereal wave of sound, dynamic and fluid, giving the ear-appearance of a spontaneous jam session, but knowing full well that it’s an illusion… these artists know what they’re doing, and have set out to do it this way.”

For Phantom Wave themselves, this song is as much a feeling as it is a full-bodied experience. Upon its release, they noted the title word’s definition:

bil·low (/ˈbilō/) – a large undulating mass of something, typically cloud, smoke, or steam.

Whether we’re listening to “Billows” or watching the music video’s intoxicatingly colorful, beautifully psychedelic visualization, Phantom Wave’s entrance into the new year is one full of energy and excitement. “I would say the lyrics deal with the dynamics of personal relationships and seeing those around you in a better light, and welcoming better times,” Ian Carpenter says. We hear him let loose as much in the chorus as in each verse, where he carefully chooses his words to evoke a stirring response in the listener:

and here it comes
season’s relief
take on the outlands
somewhere easy to be
and now what you doing?
better be proving what you want
and now what you doing?
better be giving all you got
Phantom Wave
Phantom Wave

There’s something blissful in the words’ simplicity: Phantom Wave keep it vague, letting us sink into their music and decide what it means for ourselves. However we translate the above lines, there’s something to be said for the full-bodied experience of this music:

“When we practice and are working on songs I tend to record them on my phone in the moment if they sound good,” Rachel Fischer tells Atwood Magazine. “I found that original recording for ‘Billows’ and listened to it just now. The bones of ‘Billows’ came from an eight minute long jam between the verse and ending parts. All of the transitions and major crescendos of the song came to life in that original moment and the overall structure of the song was refined just shortly after that. That is how we tend to write our most powerful songs – based on those “feel good” impactful moments when we jam together. So, when going into recording much of what we wanted was already there and the focus was on capturing that initial emotion, but live. We always do live recordings – all of us in the same room without tracking – to keep it sounding natural. We paid attention to keeping a lot of space in the song and letting it breathe. The only other major aspect of the song that was added in the studio was an additional percussive element – the echoing drops throughout the song. That was fun – it’s all guitar based.”

We’d love to hear that eight minute jam if Phantom Wave are ever into sneaking some demos our way, but in the meantime we’re happily satisfied by the track’s current 5 1/2 minute overhaul.

Phantom Waves © 2021
Phantom Wave © 2021
and here it goes
only the light knows
trembles, right on for thee
right on for thee
right on for thee
trembles for thee

Phantom Wave’s forthcoming debut album Wilds is out March 19. Listen to “Billows” out now, and get lost in the immersive folds of an exciting up-and-coming voice in shoegaze.

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Stream: “Billows” – Phantom Wave



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Wilds - Phantom Wave

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