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Phantom Airwave, 'Interstellar Transmission'

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Phantom Airwave, Interstellar Transmission - COURTESY
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(Self-released, CD, digital)

From the title of Phantom Airwave's debut album, Interstellar Transmission, you can't help but assume that listening to it will take you elsewhere. Indeed, from a jazzy saxophone prelude to a funky jam track to a love ballad and beyond, there are few places the band's music doesn't go.

Phantom Airwave hop among genres both between and within tracks, moving swiftly from a jazz to a reggae guitar riff in only a few measures. Just when you think they might be another generic jam band, they come in hot with "Hungarian Mambo," a tune so aptly named that it needs no further description.

Interstellar Transmission is Phantom Airwave's first record, but they are no newcomers to the Burlington music scene. Led by Erick Lattrell on keys, synth and vocals, the sextet has played together since 2015. According to the band's bio, the members shared the stage with Connecticut's Goose and local heavyweights Grace Potter and Twiddle, among others.

Phantom Airwave's debut is full of surprises. At times, their blend of jazz, jam, funk and pop rock is reminiscent of Dave Matthews Band. (Some may read that as a backhanded compliment, but I am here to say this: Dave Matthews Band are good.) Vocals can be poppy and smooth and — especially on "Never the Same," with its feel-good lyrics — Jason Mraz-esque. Certain lyrics in that song could be the band's mantra: "Don't be afraid to fail, / see what you can create."

Phantom Airwave's out-there experimentation and exploratory jams move them closer to groups such as Talking Heads and the String Cheese Incident. Bassist Dan Jolly and drummer Glen Wallace do an impressive job of playing the foundation for the assorted sounds.

This variety of vibes can lead to unexpected grooves, but it can also feel scattered, indicating that the studio may not be where Phantom Airwave's sound thrives. Their stated "desire to explore the audiosphere" might lend itself better to live performance, where there is room to improvise and where energy makes up for technical deficiencies. By listing their lighting technician, Anne "AL6" Lattrell, as a band member, Phantom Airwave suggest that they value the experience of their music as much as the music itself.

Either way, it's refreshing to hear a band have fun, try out sounds and see what happens. "Echo Chamber" exemplifies the success of that approach. The track sounds like music to a space-themed video game from the '80s. It's fun and playful and weird.

"Can anybody hear me? / Is anybody out there? / I'm right here!" Those echoey vocals reverberate over a galactic synth melody. Suddenly Shawn Connolly's urgent, alarming electric guitar riff descends (aliens attack), followed by Ben "Snake" Irish's resolved, easy saxophone solo (aliens are defeated).

Hop on the Interstellar Transmission express and enjoy the ride.

Interstellar Transmission is available on all major streaming platforms and on CD at local record stores.