Daniel Collás has long approached his music with an “everything but the kitchen sink” mentality. With his old group, the NYC-based octet Phenomenal Handclap Band, he created colorful songs by weaving together strands of disco, pop, and psych-rock. Yet for all the mesmerizing, polyrhythmic grooves they conjured, their two albums remained somewhat cautious (and occasionally a bit toothless). But with Drakkar Nowhere, Collás’ new project with fellow PHB member Morgan Phalen, the duo pushes themselves out of their comfort zone, putting their trust in both rich vocal melodies and finely-textured arrangements. Written largely in a rented house in Stockholm, Sweden, with a gaggle of local musicians including members of rock bands Dungen and the Amazing, Drakkar Nowhere is Collás and Phalen’s strongest, and most eccentric, work to date.
While PHB grounded itself in the music of the ‘80s, Drakkar Nowhere finds its reference points in early psychedelic rock. The album opens with “Any Way,” where sweet piano and crystalline vocal lines are a delightful dead ringer for the Zombies’ “This Will be Our Year,” before things move into headier territory. True to its name, “Higher Now” delivers a barrage of intergalactic synths over a hypnotic, deep bass loop, and “Did It Ever?” boasts an unironic flute in the vein of Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung.” While the expansive and mostly-instrumental closing track “Salutation to the Sun” drifts a bit into Spinal Tap “Stonehenge” territory with its drum freakout and Gregorian monk vocals, it maintains an elegance that overrides any whimsical or parodic read. Throughout their debut as Drakkar Nowhere, Collás and Phalen haven’t abandoned their affinity for musical hodge-podge as much as they’ve tackled it, demonstrating a newfound, and bold, sense of adventure.
—Max Savage Levenson