Phildel – The Disappearance of the Girl
As countless people do, with countless other modern artists, I discovered Phildel on YouTube. In this instance, a song of hers was the backing music to a make-up tutorial. I didn’t care about make-up. I had ears only for her soulful, ethereal soundscapes: framed by piano and string, punctuated by bells and voice. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard. I bought her album, only recently released, the very next day.
A little research revealed a stirring backstory: raised in a conservative religious household where music was forbidden, Phildel (yes, that is her real name) was forced to repress her zeal for music until she fled home at 17. She earned a living writing ditties for adverts and worked patiently to make her musical dreams a reality.
Her debut release, The Disappearance of the Girl, is a haunting yet uplifting collection of piano-based melodies. Thematically, the album is laden with allegories and archetypes; “The Wolf” evokes an unhappy childhood, while the title track signifies the beginning of a new life. Lead single “Storm Song” is a highlight, with the rumbling orchestration forming a perfect counterpoint to Phildel’s soaring vocals.
Her stunning voice is easily the standout feature of this album. It’s a delicate and considered sound, as if she’s still getting used to being allowed to sing again, and some songs are delivered perhaps more confidently than others. There’s not a lick of Auto-Tune here, and Phildel certainly doesn’t need it.
Upon first listen the music may appear sparse, perhaps desolate, with little to no excess sound. It’s unusual for me to encounter such a carefully-orchestrated album. Every instrument here is arranged just so. Every sound has a place and every word has a meaning.
Producer Ross Cullum adds a degree of lushness to Phildel’s majestic compositions and appropriately brings them up to speed for the modern listener. The line between commercial success and industry adoration is a fine one, but this is an album with the potential to achieve both.
Various other critics have compared Phildel favourably with the likes of Kate Bush and Regina Spektor. But such likenesses do Phildel an injustice. Where Kate Bush prefers seclusion, Phildel relishes the chance to give her music the audience it deserves. Where Regina Spektor exudes quirk, Phildel is a picture of seriousness and calm.
The Disappearance of the Girl is a tantalising glimpse into Phildel’s recently re-awakened musical psyche. She’s clearly had these songs brewing for a long time, and it’s wonderful to hear them at last. This is a wonderful album to play in the background while having a cup of tea or pondering the meaning of life (you know, typical studenty things). Perhaps it will re-awaken something in you too.