I first encountered Patrick Phelan back in the late 90s when a representative from Jagjaguwar handed me a CD by South because I was gushing about Labradford. Seems they shared an extra hand in the Richmond, VA scene.
South didn't sound like my boys over at Kranky, but I loved it anyway. They tied together my love for minimalist composers and late era Talk Talk and their followers, Bark Psychosis. They only put out their one album, but one-third of the group, Phelan, has been slowly releasing his own solo work ever since. His third solo record, Cost is out now.
Cost begins with the instrumental In Words (hah) - like Eno cut adrift, a perfect soundtrack for the grey skies and slow-mo snow outside. But the second track quickly proves this is not a recording of audio wallpaper and overt minimalism. A full arrangement propels as Phelan coos back and forth. The band keeps at it, even adding a distorted guitar solo, making for the most rock moment of his career. But worry not, the standard dreamy sad sound is still around and abound. Finger picked guitars, strings, lap steel- a beautiful collection of sounds sparse enough to not muddy up the sound whatsoever but full enough to keep you awake. A gorgeous album, worth the wait that has kept me hitting repeat for days now.
Patrick Phelan - Lesser Laws