"The Phantom Family Halo" evokes images of rituals performed by the likes of Manson Family disciples. But as a band name, it gives a faint impression of a musical outfit that recaptures that mind-expanding era that gave birth to Charles M. and his makeshift family — in other words, all the psychedelics but none of the bad vibes.
The latter description applies to The Phantom Family Halo's album, The Legend of Black Six, which takes off in enough directions to make it sound as much like an adventurous compilation as much as one group's vision. One description says the music approximated the Birthday Party playing Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Whether or not that holds a grain of truth, it indicates that this is a band that should be experienced.
With such a trippy setup, it might come as something of a surprise that PFH has roots in Louisville's indie rock scene. Michael McMahan played in the reunited lineup of Slint, the '90s band that wrote the book on the quiet-loud-quiet songwriting formula for indie boys everywhere. He also played in the For Carnation, a band led by his brother Brian, who had played in the original lineup of Slint and in Squirrel Bait. Michael had known Dominic Cipolla for over a decade and had played with him in the band Dead Child, before they matched wits in PFH.
"Black River" opens The Legend of Black Six with a spare but steady beat coming from a couple of drum kits and a pulsing bass line. Keyboards eventually weave their way into the staccato groove, as do theatrical vocals. This contrasts with the acoustic, breezy "Lady Blue": Wind chimes can add a shimmering ambience to a song, but whoever picked them up during this song lets them clunk in the background, which proves this band isn't about wearing its hair like heaven. If it wasn't enough that the band closes the album with a title track in three parts (there's nothing like an opus), it kicks out a garage rock stomper in "Broken By the Way" that's sure to get crowds on their feet.
Speaking of audiences, Phantom Family Halo has been on the road with Pittsburgh's psychedelic Midnite Snake; both are coming through town this week just long enough to share the Garfield Artworks stage.
Phantom Family Halo with Midnite Snake, Jackson and In the Wake of Giants. 8 p.m. Sun., Aug. 19. Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $7. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com