The quartet of the Fire Tapes, which consists of Betsy Wright (guitar, vocals), Todd Milton (guitar), Rob Dobson (bass) and Mark McLewlee (drums), quickly developed a reputation in the Washington, DC/Alexandria, VA and Charlottesville, VA areas for sets that were innovative and downright experimental. Their debut effort, Dream Travel was released to critical praise, and quite a bit of love across the blogosphere in that section of the country. 

The band will be releasing their sophomore effort, Phantoms today and it further cements the band’s reputation for complex, highly nuanced song structures, which sonically owe a great debt to the Velvet UndergroundPJ Harveythe Black Angels, and even the Standing Nudes. “Skull & XBones,” is the second and latest single off the album has an underlying sensation of unease and anxiousness for 3/4s of the song before turning into a psychedelic dirge for the last quarter. Much like great pysch rock and shoegazer rock, the song and their previous single have moments of sublime, ethereal beauty before building up into a brooding intensity. (In some I think of PJ Harvey’s song on Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions, “Crawl Home.”)

Wright’s ethereal vocals dart, bob and weave through the mix with at times consists of a muscular insistent, howling drone that should remind you of  a cold wind blowing through a desert. It’s eerie as hell and it leaves a lingering, haunting presence in it’s wake.