Smile Politely

Love is in the air with The Phantom Broadcast

Champaign-Urbana’s indie-jazz eclectic conglomerate, The Phantom Broadcast (led by founder/creator, Evan Opitz), has been upping the local music scene’s game as of late with their grandiose live performances. To add to their impressive live presence, The Phantom Broadcast has recently released a four song EP, Sublimation Love, for the listening pleasure of all. 

A departure from the previous emo/math rock sounds that The Phantom Broadcast’s earlier releases reflected, Opitz opted to take the sound more towards the jazz and classical styles that he was listening to. Consequently, the process in the creation of the songs was a much more thought out experience. “We started work on Sublimation Love as early as January 2015,” Opitz says, describing how the EP first started to come to light. “‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ was the first song that was written. At the time, it was just the first half of guitar and vocal melody without lyrics.” After spending more time with his own compositions and listening to other jazz and classical composers (such as Matt Ulery and Ryan Keberle), Opitz realized that he wanted to “create a larger sonic atmosphere by adding horns and viola to the music,” thus prompting him to revive The Phantom Broadcast with a new lineup and a new sound.

Such a change lends to Sublimation Love’s booming sound. On opening track “Cortex” (also the official single for the EP), we’re introduced to a soft and sweeping guitar chord progression for a few measures before the rest of the ensemble kicks in with instruments blaring. The guitars on Sublimation Love were all done as organically as possible — no doubling of parts or add-ins. Normally, this would lead to a very flat skeleton for sound — but The Phantom Broadcast beautifully compensates for this with a delicate blend of the horns, strings, bass and drums.

One of the most impressive aspects of the release is that no single instrument overpowers another — including the vocals. Opitz’s vocal parts slip smoothly in with the other sounds on the EP, building and harmonizing chords with ease. This was achieved by the mixing prowess of Joe Meland (of local acts Feral States and Boycut) as well as Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering in Wisconsin. 

With the addition of new members and instruments, it comes with extreme delight on Opitz’s end. “For the first time, the Phantom Broadcast feels like one big mass whenever we are together, versus a single person as a leader/face of the group,” he comments. “With every performance, I am more and more in awe at the great musicianship of everyone in the group, they all play at such a high level and I am so thankful to be a part of their music.” He also went on to say that “Most of the musicians are performance majors and they can pick up ideas extremely quickly.” The writing of most parts was done by Opitz, but some of the members write their own pieces. This mixing and melding of ideas helped curate the ebb and flow of the songs. Almost every track on Sublimation Love has definite parts or movements in them, emulating styles of classical composers. Third track of the EP, “A Rose By Any Other Name”, is a perfect example of this. Starting with a medium-tempo, medium-loud movement within the first couple of minutes, picking up into resounding horns, crashing drums, and crooning harmonies during the fourth minute, and then finally calming down into a more sedated outro that is topped off with Opitz smoothly singing “you can’t understand/life’s not infinite, you won’t last time.” 

When asked about the meaning of the lyrics and inspirations for the themes, Opitz says he tried to stray from his previous methods. “I wouldn’t say there is a “story” being told throughout the album; however, there is somewhat of a theme,” Opitz says. Hi goal was to write lyrics that related to his life and other people in his life in a way thatwas somewhat amibigous and showed how life was/is a learning experience. “Some lyrics apply to me personally, of course,” he admits, “but some apply to other people as things that I would have said to them but kept to myself at the time. I wanted to approach them from a very universally human approach that could related to anybody, rather than being self-absorbed in my own personal trials and tribulations.” These sentiments about speaking harsh truths and commenting on the growth of life are apparent from lines like “We’re all liars marching into the sea,” and “How could he abandon you?/Just know that I am here to stay,” taken from closing track “Wish”.

So what, all in all, is “sublimation love?” Opitz describes it as the “strong familial ‘loving’ bond between everyone involved in the creation of the album in way or another,” as “creating the imagery of love as an object of some sort that has sublimated into a gas state.” It’s the resounding emotion that is seldom easy to hide from. “A cliché way to put it,” he says sheepishly, “would be that ‘love is in the air.’” And love will be in the air for  you when you listen to Sublimation Love. While there is still room for The Phantom Broadcast to grow, as they fine-tune their new sound and new lineup, Sublimation Love is an excellent first glance at the grace and prowess of these talented musicians.

Catch them tonight, December 3rd, headlining Mike N Molly’s with Vaya, Feral States and Fiona Kimble. Sublimation Love is available for streaming/purchase on their Bandcamp as well as physical copies available at their live shows.

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