Continuing on my quest to populate the Rusted Rail Bandcamp page with the gems from the Rusted Rail back catalogue now that the label has been established for 10 years, today finds us in the company of Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon. I've known Aaron and Scott for longer than I can count on 4 hands and the day they started to make music together was a happy one indeed. So far they have released a 3" EP and a full length CD album on the 'Rail, in 2007 and 2010 respectively. RR and the Phantom Dog's were honoured when Cian Ó Cíobháin chose one of their songs - "Two Hours After Dusk" to appear on a volume of his An Taobh Tuathail compilations and I'll let you read what others have written about Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon as its the viewpoints of others that sometimes highlight the essence of "a thing"... Keith, Rusted Rail, September 2016
Original Press Release -
"It is with great pleasure that Rusted Rail can announce the release of "The Trees, The Sea in a Lunar Stream" by Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon. An Irish duo made up of Aaron Hurley and Scott McLaughlin, their music combines many elements from avant-folk to shoegaze, modern composition to indie rock. Recorded in England and Ireland, this album combines avant singer-songwriter moves with a contemporary classical sensibility as songwriter Hurley and multi-instrumentalist McLaughlin conjure music from vocals, guitars, piano, cello, glockenspiel, bass guitar, melodica, double bass, harpsichord, vibraphone and electronics. An ambitious recording with many experimental textures, Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon veer from rustic folk to glacial atmospheres, from haunted songs to spooked shoegaze soundscapes."
The Trees, The Sea In A Lunar Stream is a muted, subtle album from Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon, a duo of Aaron Hurley and Scott McLaughlin. It's such a lovely piece of work that I'm going to invent a new genre, 'folk-gaze', for it: the music has that faraway glide of shoegazing at its best, but the guitars and strings derive from contemporary folk experimentation. It's wrapped within leaves of dronish modernity and tied together with high, chiming vocals; the whole thing then goes supernova on the climax, 'Halloween'. Marvellous. - Shindig Magazine
Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon are an Irish duo of Aaron Hurley and Scott McLaughlin, whose "The Trees, The Sea in a Lunar Stream" is a haunting and at times quite beautiful collection of avant-folk compositions, which distil modern folk, shoegaze, drone and laid-back jazz backdrops into a heady and intriguing infusion. Reminiscent by turn of Nick Drake, introspective Neil Young, Satie, Sigur Ros, the more serene end of the Incredible String Band's catalogue, and early Kate Bush, these eerie and ethereal soundscapes, often sung in a high pitched and tremulous voice, stand up well whatever the comparisons. "The Trees..." is consistently good throughout and worth checking out, particularly for the slow-burningly stupendous show-closer, "Halloween". - Terrascope
It's been six years since the release of the first album by Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon on Deserted Village in 2004. There is little surprise for me that this follow up charts a significant growth in the project's music. The recruitment of Scott McLaughlin as a permanent second band member has certainly contributed to this, as the ghostly and dark singer/songwriter folk has been enriched with a broader instrumentarium and more varied compositions.
This is showcased perfectly in the first four tracks. "As Perceived by Mice" lays a nice flowing base with piano and guitar, and Aaron Hurley's trademark high voice, still pleasantly reminiscent of Thom Yorke here and there. The beautiful "Poems" is very intimate and subtle, weaving soft guitar lines with swooping cello and delicate touches of glockenspiel and music box. "Stealing Owls" and "Hide and Seek" introduce Barry Hurley on drums, lending these tracks a stronger rhythmic touch, bordering on subtle psych rock here and there, particularly in the last track's harpsichord sections.
The second half of the album holds more good things; The fifth and seventh track are simple and stylish guitar songs in the band's original vein, while "A Shimmering Clown" is a darkly beautiful soundscape with distant, sorrowful vocals. The closer, "Halloween", is equally excellent, with a superb development and crashing rock ending.
The edges are rough, which can be expected from an underground project like this. But look past that, and you've got a beautiful, honest and highly original album, lovingly released and handmade by Rusted Rail. Another gem from Ireland, highly recommended to dark folk lovers. - Evening of Light
The band - Aaron Hurley (vocals/guitar) and Scott McLaughlin (multi-instrumentalist) - have created an album that is haunting, ethereal, atmospheric, personal, and challenging. It is clear Talk Talk's minimalist masterpiece Laughing Stock is a powerful influence on the band. However PDBTM are no mere copyists. Instead the music they love, Talk Talk, Radiohead, and My Bloody Valentine, has encouraged them - and Aaron in particular - to be brave in their songwriting, to use music as a way of navigating and exploring a personal inner world of sound, expression, and reflection, and realising that through the voice and the medium of song. Taking such a course inevitably produces music that is individual and firmly in the avant-folk/undergound realm. Standout tracks are opener 'As Perceived By Mice', 'Stealing Owls', and the majestic 'Two Hours after Dusk', distinguished by its descending piano riff. - Galway Advertiser
Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon return with their second for Rusted Rail, this time a long-player coming in at an eerie 50 minutes on the nose. 'The Trees, the Sea in a Lunar Stream' is a novella of eight proper songs, agreeing entirely with their previous EP 'Through a Forest Only'. Still the pair of Scott McLaughlin and Aaron Hurley (with a few guests scattered here and there), the latter's voice growing more in richness like a melancholic Simply Red (yeah I just made a fucking Simply Red reference), the former's combination of timbres to achieve the transference of Mercury Rev, and the pair together evoking the impossibly-melodic genome of Micah P. Hinson for overall ease with orchestration. There is no fat to speak of among the tracks; each offers a distinct theme and persona which is at worst charmingly-executed. Thus standouts aren't easy to peg, so here's a tour of the boundaries: "Hide and Seek", like the plaintive ballads of Clinic, features a stripped yet convoluted beat under dubby rhythm, spooked falsetto, and a (and this is the give-away) harmonica like wheeze troubling the gauzy high like a migraine. "Ellipse of a Forrest Walk" recalls the moody soft-rock of Tram for its gentle let down and earnest delivery, and at times verging the melodic achievements of Odawas, its incomplete guitar loop starting again like some eternal return of the bummer. Comparisons to Odawas are even more prescient for the nine-minute closer "Halloween", an autumn must sticking to each note and refracting Hurley's voice to a thin shell; though hints of stress show in previous moments of bold chaos, the pair take a golden opportunity to unleash in their final moments in a full band jangle-rock (my Boys Life reference from last review still holds true) before returning in reprise to their humble bliss. Not to force the burden on comparisons nor to imply the band sounds somehow derivative - far from it: these are merely passing resemblances - but there remains a kindred spirit which few artists effectively convey, and which not rains but pours from this duo... Highly recommended. - Animal Psi
Phantom Dog is an Irish duo - Aaron Hurley and Scott McLaughlin which is usually labelled as avant-folk/shoegaze/indie rock. "The Trees, The Sea in a Lunar Stream" is actually their first album - a debut following by "In a Light" as Snowmachine released on Deserted Village and a 3" EP "Through a forest only" under current alias. Vocals, guitars, piano, cello, glockenspiel, bass guitar, melodica, double bass, harpsichord, vibraphone and a slight touch of electronics make their way to the point where singer/songwriter etiquette loses with psychedelia and fragile sphere of inner journey. There is a great deal of poetry in this which isn't suppresive by any means and has enough power to become more than a music wallpaper which is a usual fact in case of songs of this type. Two gentlemen refer to Nick Drake's archetype in their own manner and style - very much retro and gets everything what is good from that. Time to chill out... - Felthat
After a couple of years I finally hear an official release by this duo, consisting of Aaron Hurley and Scott McLauglin. Leading are Aaron's slightly melancholic, moody, emotional high pitched whispery vocal led songs (on the first song slightly broken), accompanied by acoustic and electrified acoustic pickings with warm additional arrangements of cello, drums, piano, double bass, harpsichord, melodica, glockenspiel, softly breathed trumpet and subtle electronics. This sort of melancholy is highly attractive and drags you into the whole album. One track with deformed voice his voices whines stronger, and the arrangements becomes sort of rockier. On the last track, the band arrangements even slightly "freak-out" in a temperamental way, bringing the shoegazing factor into its heights of energy. Very good! - Psyche Folk
Opening with the excellently titled "As Perceived by Mice", the album is filled with gentle melody, atmosphere, strangeness and quality, the musicians illuminating a hidden world of sun-filled dreams and excursions into dusty attics, both nostalgic and hopeful. Highlight for me is the wonderful "Stealing Owls" a marvellous arrangement bringing the song to life, whilst "Halloween" builds slowly over nine delicious minutes from soft acoustic to chaotic electric, without losing its identity, great stuff. - Terrascopic Rumbles
I dare some comparisons that come to listen to this contemplative folk huddled. Imagine Nick Drake deflected by Robert Wyatt, snapped up by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, and screened in a gracious space Great Song of Pheasant, The Zephyrs, all brushed with white in the brush slightly piqued emerald green button umber burned. Rover under anesthesia.
Phantom dog beneath the moon injected a romantic-dramatic bliss in this contemplation Fresh pop and innocent appearance. Haunted and atmospheric. Some skins stretched, many scarlet strings, a voice that the head absorbs, naked laments, misty waves brass, my horizon is topped with a fat silt fog, tremor has hit the scarf resumed his collar, his hands were plunged into the pockets soaked, the brain has spread there, puddle, a fertile land razed cereals, mirrors in the mud, a soft field from which emerge ghosts, in the pure sweetness. Another solitary walk around the tree, the anticyclone is an ointment, stubborn frills of ground inhabited by marine inputs. The tree has disappeared beneath the rough layers of rock that post closing the album, a cataclysmic nebula pierces the neck and embarks definitively. A mirage. - The Chronicles of Charlu (internet translation from French)
In lovely handmade arigato packaging..... The music is mysterious home spun folk music. Long drawn out dusty distant songs that at times recall a more palatable Richard Youngs (if anyone hasn't heard his high water mark 'Sapphie' you should do right away). It's full of eerie melodies, finger picked acoustic guitars and high pitched lost, longing vocals. Cello's weep despondently but there's a soothing quality to the music and after a few spins the subtle melodies start emerging from the murk. Recommended. - Norman Records
So, what do we have here? It's released by Rusted Rail, so it better be something good! Probably something leaning towards the folkier side. Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon, interesting band name for sure. Gets me exited somehow. And it looks great in that thin cardboard wallet. Basically, this is a very sentimental Michael Stipe kind of singer, moving around in high registers, singing melancholic songs about nights, loves and losses. The music is rather minimal,yet quite rich. While a song may consist of like three tiny melodies repeated over and over, them melodies are usually very nice.The album's got some kind of ghastly lullaby feeling to it, which appeals to me. I also learned to cope with the wheezy vocals. Sometimes, they even send goosebumps over my skin, like in the first song when they go from high, to higher to even higher. And oh, the damped rolling drums and the bass work in the extremely atmospheric "Hide and Seek" is worth mentioning, bringing a slight Cinema Strange sound to the sound. Nice. "The Trees, The Sea in a Lunar Stream" is hereby by all means a recommended debut album from Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon . You who fancy laid-back folk experimentation in darker hues might check this out,and like it just the same.
- The Shadows Commence
Listening to Aaron Hurley and Scott McLaughlin's music reminds me of that wonderful expression from Hank Williams about that high and lonesome sound. It could come across like too much of an attempt at a pun on my part to call Phantom Dog haunting, but it's true, nonetheless. This album is a landscape of very carefully crafted textures, including vibraphone, 'cello, double bass and electronics.
- Boa Melody Bar
The latest proposal of the praiseworthy Irish label Rusted Rail combines the most avant-garde character of the folk singer-songwriter with a post-classical sensibility that makes extensive use of an orchestral instrumentation and a long series of analog and electronic textures organs.
Those responsible for this new project marked by the charming moniker Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon is the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Hurley Scott McLaughlin, artists already active previously in the avant-folk around the Deserted Village but only recently active as a duo under this new name.
The fifty minutes of their debut "The Trees, The Sea In A Lunar Stream" combine their diverse backgrounds and their attitudes in a work that eschews rigid frameworks to present the many different facets resulting from the gradual layering of sonic guise of a musical fabric traditional. So, if the common denominator of almost all songs is the evocative writing of Hurley - which has its roots in the classic Drakean songwriting - the eight songs contained in the work they are parading in each of psychedelic and mystical aura, outlining a rural and alien dimension, through which shine bucolic clear hints but also abstractions and derailments guitar next to drone-folk twists.
The result is obtained on the one hand through a visionary writing and further enriched by the feverish turnover at the scene of a kind of chamber orchestra, summed up the skill of multi-instrumentalist and McLaughlin made from time to time in piano, cello, glockenspiel, bass, vibraphone and harpsichord. And it is the instrumental care put into the arrangements, to transfigure with great ease songs from dusty ancestral chants ( "Poems") to clear acoustic fragments ( "Ellipse Of A Forest Walk"), from atmospheric ritualisms reminding you of Talk Talk " Laughing Stock "(" Hide And Seek ") in languid jazzy essays of a night of chamber music ensembles such as that of Spain (" a Shimmering Clown ").
All this is on top of that propped up by electric incursions, to which surface the compositions of the Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon undergo a genetic change in the balance between the West Coast psychedelia of the 70s and relevant today ruminations drone-folk, particularly evident in the concluding part of the disc, where the same falsetto Hurley merges into a kind of invocation in a unique instrumental teeming with substrate.
Indecipherable and inspired, "The Trees, The Sea In A Lunar Stream" is a work made with care and remarkable compositional class, with its strange combination between ancient sensibility and taste postmodern performative poses as a further testimony to the extraordinary vitality the thousand facets of contemporary folk. And in this sense, in the wake of experiences like those of Agitated Radio Pilot and The Magickal Folk Of The Faraway Tree, Ireland appears more and more an ideal country able to join in a stimulating tradition and evolution.
- Ondarock (Internet translation from Italian)