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Various Blonde

Phantom Pain EP
(self-released)

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Various Blonde's Phantom Pain EP is a 25-minute exercise in trying one's patience. The instrumental work — by former members of Pixel Panda and Black Presidents — sets up a swirling cascade of post-hardcore guitar, bass and drums. But singer Josh Allen sounds like he's standing five feet back from a megaphone and shouting into it. With its piercing vocals, the album's first track, "Idiots For Sale," dares you to listen at any volume louder than a whisper. The electro-bloops that open "The Devil on Tambourine" leave the song sounding like a corrupted file, and the high-toned arpeggios in its middle half only cause further irritation. Even Allen's guitar work falls victim to needless sonic flourishes. It's a shame because the final song, an instrumental called "Masokissed," shows what Various Blonde is capable of: well-played, emotionally resonant songs that say their piece without a single word spoken.

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