Phantom Lights by Memory Drawings (Review)

Hanson’s dulcimer often takes the lead in these songs, but in ways that are consistently beguiling.
Phantom Lights - Memory Drawings

Of the numerous projects that have emerged from the ashes of the late, great Hood, Memory Drawings has been one of the most productive. It’s certainly one of the most sonically interesting, thanks to its focus on the silvery sounds of Joel Hanson’s dulcimer.

Ordinarily, a focus on a single instrument — and especially one that usually lies outside the (post-)rock canon — could come across as a bit gimmicky. Not so with Memory Drawings. Yes, Hanson’s dulcimer often takes the lead, and distinctively so, but in ways that are consistently beguiling and fascinating. Consider the way the dulcimer’s layered tones create a base on “Two Rooms” around which Sarah Kemp’s violin can dance and sway. But by the time Phantom Lights ends with “Captivated,” it’s the dulcimer’s time to dance, and so it does, flitting around Yvonne Bruner’s lovely voice.

While Memory Drawings is very much it’s own thing, there’s no use denying that it exists within Hood’s shadow, due to obvious sonic similarities. The same could be said of Richard Adams’ other main project, The Declining Winter, so perhaps it’s simply the case that there was something in the water of Leeds that continues to affect the music made by its native sons years after the fact. Whatever the case, those yearning for the pastoral post-rock of 1998’s Rustic Houses Forlorn Valleys will almost certainly enjoy “The Final Curtain,” thanks to its autumnal atmospherics and a wonderfully doleful tone that’s well-suited for English countrysides blanketed by grey skies.

As an added bonus, Barnaby Carter remixes “There Is A Last Time For Everything,” which originally appeared on 2017’s The Nearest Exit. He focuses on a handful of dulcimer riffs from the original song, and builds them into a claustrophobic wall of sound underscored by skittering beats and pulsing bass tones that reveals how infinitely malleable Memory Drawings’ signature element can be.

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