Young Lithuanian trio Phonic Scoupe have made quite an impression in the past year, with a series of tracks and remixes for the Stripped family of labels rounded out by appearances on System, Sound Avenue, Soundteller, and 238W. ‘Seven Sins’ sees the group return home to Stripped for their debut album, which offers six new tracks plus the single ‘Lust’, together with brand new beatless versions of all seven tracks.
Eagerness kicks things off in fine style with rising, shimmering synths providing some immediate ear-candy, and a richly bassy progressive groove gradually locking into place underneath. The catchy chiming counter-melody works a treat too for the track’s climatic middle section, before the original synths come to the fore again for an extended outro.
The single ‘Lust’ is up next, with the driving, swaying bassline that picks up early on providing a great centerpiece. The highlight of the track for me, though, is the breakdown, which introduces excellent squelchy bass tones underneath a busy, abstract hook.
‘Anxiety’ lives up to the name, as Phonic Scoupe push the album in a darker, nervier direction, with distorted bass notes sparring it out with slightly detuned organ melodies. It’s not my favourite track, though there are some good moments, especially the breakdown, which makes the most of some very compelling melodic lines that hover in the background throughout most of the time.
More to my taste is ‘Treason’, which sprinkles delicate pianos and rich pads over an energetic, rumbling proggy workout.
‘Anathema’ sees Phonic Scoupe adopt a darker tone once more, with skipping kick drums, heavy hi-hats, a menacing bassline, a gripping siren-like lead, and a subtler, more hypnotic melody that creeps in and out of the track. This is another standout on the album, sounding really distinctive and full of drive. The breakdown perhaps goes on a tad too long, but the track offers up so much energy in the second half that it’s worth the wait.
‘Revenge’ is another tough-as-nails progger, with a really compelling dual-bassline and snappy percussion providing most of the forward momentum, and spacey pads adding just a touch of lightness, before coming to the fore beautifully in the breakdown.
Finally, Phonic Scoupe close with the 10-minute epic ‘Grudge’, which begins with two minutes of floaty and warm synths, before simply taking off, with a pulsing bassline and firing hi-hats surging forward. The track manages to nicely balance progressive and techno elements, and the main theme that arrives during the breakdown reminded me a little of Andy Ling’s classic ‘Fixation’ (recently revived by Guy J, of course). However, the breakdown meanders much too long for my taste, which unfortunately lessens the impact of the soaring finale when it finally arrived.
As a bonus, Phonic Scoupe offer up beatless versions of each of the seven ‘sins’. As you might expect, some of the tracks work better in this format than others, with ‘Eagerness’ and particularly ‘Revenge’ providing the highlights for me.
Overall, this is a surprisingly accomplished and distinctive LP from a production outfit as early into their career as Phonic Scoupe. Not everything on here worked for me, but it certainly boasts more than its fair share of compelling and original moments. 8/10