I Followed It on Horseback
Originally in the East London-based electronic duo Famous in Japan, Philip Harmonic evolved after singer and classically trained pianist Noam Andrews retreated to a gloomy penthouse high above New York City to contemplate mortality, loneliness, and alienation. It was there, lit only by a small lamp placed atop an antique grand piano, that he painstakingly translated his songs, including standout tracks 25, Phonograph and Postfantasy, from electronic dance anthems to piano ballads and finally to acoustic orchestration. "Every song is associated with a specific place that has a resonance for me," Noam explains, "although it's odd that no matter where I go I continue to experience the same emotional preoccupations." The songs were inspired by Noam's experiences arriving home to Broadway in the early morning hours of the late 90's after spilling out from underground gay clubs Twilo and Vinyl with a copy of American Psycho. " I would sit down and alternate between Chopin and Elton John," Noam recounts. "It felt right to play emotional compositions like the Nocturnes and Your Song, although I stayed away from the honky-tonk of Crocodile Rock or the Mazurkas." Of all the songs on the album, perhaps it is the pop-goth musings of Playboy Nights and the sprawling, classical-inflection of Thrown It All Away that most aptly reflect this period. Both songs begin with the piano and conceal strutting Ziggy Stardust-era glam rock in their dark and shining cores. "It was incredible to feel such uncertainty and enthusiasm," Noam says glumly, "perhaps the closest I have felt to belonging anywhere. But that could have been the drugs." Ultimately it was this love of musical contradiction and his need for personal reinvention that prompted Noam to quit an ill-fated job at Studio Daniel LIbeskind and head down to Buenos Aires to collaborate with Argentine producer Nicolas Kalwill of CocoRosie fame. "I would walk down the street practicing lyrics in my head. Everything else seemed unreal." Noam explained "I had met Nico in London while recording a previous demo and he told me if I ever wanted to make an album I should just buy a one way ticket. I took him up on it." Once in Buenos Aires, Philip Harmonic formed with a rotating roster of well-known Argentine musicians including Pablo Silberberg, a virtuoso guitarist and one half of the identical-twin South American pop sensation Los Inmigrantes. "Pablo's technique was incredible," Noam says, "the solos on Little Room and his 12string guitar playing on Unnatural Shade of Blue are outstanding contributions." Borrowing from Bowie, the Beatles, and Roxie Music, Philip Harmonic delivers intimate musical compositions that transcend obvious pop structures toward genre-bending complexity. "I'm not interested in simplicity," Noam explains with a grin, "there's not enough mystery in modern pop music." And what about the album title? "It refers to the self-obsessed musings of obscure 19th century Scottish naval engineer John Scott Russell," he concludes. "The idea of a gentleman chasing a wave formation down a canal in Edinburgh just fit the songs."