Phantastic Ferniture is the new project by acclaimed folk artist Julia Jacklin but this full band endeavour sees the Australian starlet branch off from her earlier, more sedate leanings for something with a little bit more pep. The modus operandi behind forming a group with friends Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan K Brennan in the basement of a pizza place in Sydney, stemmed from a notion Jacklin had “I thought, I would love to know what it’s like to make people feel good and dance”. Folk isn’t known for its audiences losing their shit but the stomp of rock ‘n’ roll is; Phantastic Ferniture was born.
The trio’s self-titled LP isn’t quite the rip-roarer that you might expect given our protagonist’s confession to create music to make people move, but what it is, is a record that shimmers and shakes with a refined joie de vivre; in the way bass-lines rumble or riffs subtly snake between firm drum patterns, this is an album that gradually grabs your attention rather than pinning you against a wall and landing a smacker on your lips. The inception of the three-piece’s primary outing was one borne from spontaneity and that’s what makes Phantastic Ferniture a charming listen; the impulsiveness can be heard from the occasional ‘woo!” or “hey!” –
it’s as if the act has been captured in their natural habitat.
Sonically the record pivots on dusty rock ‘n’ roll. It’s an earthy album and at times it can sound carefree, albeit with lyrics that nonchalantly depict adolescent frustrations and relationship woes. Opening track ‘Uncomfortable Teenager’ glimmers with a summery glow while Jacklin tells the tale of someone “waging a war against everything your mother fought for”. ‘Bad Timing’ carries on the breezy tones, with a shimmy and a shake, and again the band’s figurehead recounts a suitor who is looking to the sow their wild oats “maybe it’s not the time/maybe we were never meant to be/but when you get back/would you let me know/did sleeping around set you free?” Whilst a good chunk of Phantastic Ferniture ripples with an upbeat vibe, it’s when the record slides into a darker, slower rhythm that you feel it really finds its feet. ‘Take It Off’ drops the pace for a definite strut and a brooding coo, whereas ‘I Need It’ fidgets and writhes on nimble interplay between a supple piece of fretwork and a robust volley of drum licks. Don’t just take my word for it, as Jacklin herself remarks “boy you will see/that the dark is part of me” on ‘Parks’.
The Australian group’s debut is one standout track short of being Phantastic, but on the whole, Phantastic Ferniture is an album that hints at exciting things to come.
Words and thoughts of Adam Williams