Much ado has been made about the soullessness of today's music scene. Honesty takes a back seat to drum machines and heart is sacrificed on the altar of ultimate coolness. But wait, there's hope! Quit losing your religion, don't fear the reaper, skip the Hail Marys, and give your sinning bodies over to the Phenomenal Handclap Band.
With an album cover showing hands opening to let the light shine through, and track titles like "Testimony," "The Martyr," and "I Been Born Again," Phenomenal Handclap Band is pretty in-your-face with religious overtones. Lucky for us, their revival is one of unabashed soul and disco fusion, and they offer salvation through dance. Phenomenal Handclap Band presents an incredibly diverse amalgamation of styles and elements from the past few decades: electronic synth-waves cascading over earthy rhythms, swirling psychedelia, whispered blues backed up with doo-wop harmonies, all the while invoking flawless pop sensibilities that fluctuate throughout each song. Although their mother decade would definitely be the sixties, it seems a shame to pigeonhole a band that might have you smooth-grooving one moment, only to suddenly find yourself doing the electric slide.
Except for the perplexing hopscotch incantation of "15 to 20," songs lean towards breathy vocals and funky ambient instrumentation. The album tends to meander at times - out of the 12 songs, only one (barely) clocks in under four minutes. This kind of sprawl is appropriate, however, for a band that lets their hair down and luxuriates in yawning guitar licks and gradually evolving keyboards. The collective ebbs and flows, taking in all sorts of wandering talent, and they're at their best when all the parts form an organic whole, in tracks such as "You'll Disappear," "Dim the Lights," and "I Been Born Again."
Although maddeningly devoid of handclaps, phenomenal or otherwise, the record is seamlessly produced by the Witch Doctor (Daniel Collas) and the Medicine Man (Sean Marquand), and is sure to infuse your day with plenty of groove-worthy soul power. Can I get an "Amen"? -Nina Mashurova