Originally issued in 1980, Phantom Band's self-titled debut featured Can's Jaki Liebezeit on drums, along with late-era Can collaborator Rosko Gee and a variety of German musicians. For those unfamiliar with his abilities, Liebezeit is a powerful, original, and dynamic drummer whose contributions to Can rank as some of the most outstanding examples of propulsive and intuitive drum playing you're ever likely to come across. Little of this recitation regarding the worthy qualities of Jaki Liebezeit applies to the music of Phantom Band, however.
Phantom Band's music is a product of their time--preset synth sounds abound, bass player Rosko Gee sounds like he plays a fretless bass, and the whole vibe of the band's music is equal parts limp exotica, stilted reggae, and tepid, dated synth-pop. Phantom Band headed out from some of the same directions taken over the last couple of Can albums--the major difference being that Can was able to neatly balance any cheesiness with a restless experimental drive and purpose that is lacking from this initial effort. "You Inspired Me" gives little evidence of Liebezeit's mastery, as a weak reggae beat is saddled with a number of dated touches, ranging from sappy vocals to hippyish guitar playing. By the third song, "For M.," I found myself yearning for some four-on-the-floor Jaki power, but the sound stays entrenched in the same sort of world-music/reggae feel throughout the disc.
Things pick up briefly with "Phantom Drums," as overdubbed drum tracks careen back and forth and against each other while a trickling water sound slowly emerges from the back of the mix to come to the front. "Absolutely Straight" features some nice noisy synth work by keyboardist Helmut Zerlett. Holger Czukay contributes some solid horn work here too, combining with the Caribbean feel of the drums and bass to produce something much more interesting. "Without Desire" returns Phantom Band to the realm of cheesiness, with colorless, wanky guitar playing matched to yet another vaguely Jamaican beat. The last track to hold any of my interest on this disc was "Pulsar," which is driven by a nifty Liebezeit beat but doesn't develop much beyond its original idea.
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but this reissue didn't do anything for me but make me want to listen to a bunch of Can records instead. 4/10 -- Mike Griffin (28 July, 2010)