Album on repeat: 'Volition' by Phoria
It’s not uncommon to read that an album is ‘most anticipated’. In fact, if an artist is renowned, I highly anticipate to read that their album is ‘most anticipated’. There are few records these days that I’d ever use that now cliché phrase to describe, but there are times when I must make an exception.
Phoria, on so many levels, are an exception.
After years in the making, it is with great honour that I call Phoria’s debut album Volition both the most-anticipated and the most artistically exceptional album I’ve heard this year.
They may seem like sweeping statements, but this Brighton-based quintet takes hypothetically mainstream pop-worthy melodies, any euphoric electronic sounds they can find and a plethora of emotions, and shapes a sound that can only be described as ‘Phoria’.
If you need a genre to compare it to, I’d use ‘alternative electronic’, but that’s a loose term in itself.
Fans of Phoria, referred to as Phorites, will recognise that this album is part ‘Phoria’s Greatest Hits’, part ‘New Intensely Mindblowingly Brilliant Music’.
We’ve got the track-that-kicked-it-all-off ‘Red’, released on their first EP Bloodworks in 2013, alongside Melatonin, Undone, Everything Beta and Saving Us A Riot, all of which have received glowing support from the music press and their growing fanbase.
On the newer side, there’s Loss, a 6.36 minute track that everyone needs to listen to alone, lying on the floor with their eyes closed, or looking out to sea. That song takes you through motions. Sometimes you feel like you’re flying, other times you feel like you’re crashing against violent waves.
The whole album’s a little bit like that, if I’m honest, but the heart-wrenchingly powerful string parts for Loss hit you in the gut, even harder than the solemnly gentle sounds of Saving Us A Riot.
Prior to Loss, was By The Sea, a 39 second acoustic chant with the chillingly intricate intertwining of the same countertenor and baritone vocals that drives you into an emotional abyss whenever the vocal pitch shifts in any Phoria song. If you don’t know what I mean by this, listen to Red again.
It’s not just the vocals that take you into an abyss. Mass, which came before By The Sea, appears to be more grounding in the first 20 seconds with a Gregorian inspired chant, until it embellishes into compelling soundscapes. Each time I listen to it, I feel like I’m coming out of a meditative session.
In fact, it’s taken me four attempts to write about Mass because I keep getting engrossed in the song, closing my eyes and then forgetting what I had intended to say.
The final new track to mention is Yourself Still, which is symbolically the most theoretically intelligent, disguising itself as a typically structured pop song on the surface and filling our ears with a collection of complex rhythms, delayed synths and powerful string riffs – rounding Volition to a euphoric end.
My poetic classic-music-writer words have only given attention to a selection of Phoria’s songs – notably, the newer ones. It’s not due to lack of love for their older music – Everything Beta can be deeply hypnotising, Melatonin gives me courage, and Red will always be a masterpiece – but because I wanted to address where they were leading with their newer music.
It’s taken Phoria almost four years of to release this debut album. We’ve been teased with EPs, sold out shows and beautifully composed videos, knowing that this is the album that they were leading to.
It was entirely worth the wait.