Album: Phosphorescent – Revelator review

by Craig Howieson

While some country records are dug straight from the earth, Matthew Houck’s Revelator feels like it has been plucked straight from the clouds

Phosphorescent’s music has always held a mystic quality. While Matthew Houck’s songs have always buried their roots deep into the Country and Americana of America’s scorched southern states, they also hold an ethereal psychedelia. His latest release – Revelator – is no different, and in fact doubles down on the orphic haziness of his work, as tracks mutate and coalesce under an equatorial sun.

The themes of Revelator dovetail nicely with the soft focus of the music. Nothing is nailed down, as Houck ponders, hypothesises, muses, and, without need, ever comes to definitive conclusions. On The World is Ending, a track written by his wife, Jo Schornikov, there is an almost glib acceptance of mortality, as Houck seems unphased by the ticking of an existential clock. Instead, relishing in the refreshing malaise of the here and now. 

Wide As Heaven is a glorious slow train ride past good times that are just out of reach, with the crashing crescendo finding the waves of some distant ocean lapping your feet. Revelator is a record of epic proportions, laced with deep thinking, but Houck also retains his fun side. The Bahama sway of A Moon Behind The Clouds with its syncopated snap and summer sway could be a poolside staple. 

Houck has penned a number of special songs over the years, but To Get It Right – the closing track of Revelator – could be his finest moment. Starting like a mist in the wind, over the course of its seven minutes run time it soaks you through. As the bass picks up the heavy lifting in the second half, we are reminded that life is not plain sailing for anyone, it is a fight to the end. The song cycle feel, which runs from the title track all the way through to its closer, assures us that it is a fight worthy of our time. 

Revelator, with all of its hard to pinpoint mysteries, is an almost religious experience. Scratching at the surface of something deeper than our collective understanding, it lives in the clouds, but still looks up – a truly heaven gazing collection.

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