Phia combines joyous choral harmonies and live looping on her new self-titled album
14.06.2022

Phia combines joyous choral harmonies and live looping on her new self-titled album

Image Source by Carolyn Logan/ Penney and Logan
Words by Jena Carr

Explore your inner harmonies and emotions with the latest indie album, sure to take you on a journey of emotional growth.

Known for her genre-defying, live looping shows and masterful use of the African kalimba, her multi-layered music breeds a kind of euphoria, Phia – the entrancing DIY-art-pop music project of multi-instrumentalist songwriter and composer Sophia Exiner – has just released her sophomore album, following on from her 2016 debut album The Ocean of Everything.

Released on June 14th, PHIA – the artist’s self-titled album – explores her central theme of honesty through lyrics and music to help depict the various sounds that make up her day-to-day life. She explores a personal period of artistic and personal growth as she creates a new pace for herself in Melbourne’s musical landscape after returning from Berlin in 2016.

Her first track, The Path, is the focus track of her album and was written in a moment of heightened and frustrated emotion. The track allows the artist to release her feelings in a cathartic way and enables her to melt in her unique sonic world. She immediately pulls the listener’s attention in this song as she takes you on a calming and emotional journey through her soft and powerful vocals mixed with the exciting clicking of the tempo. 

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She enjoys a love of live looping and joyous choral harmonies from this first song on a fantastic indie album. “Looping taps me into the joy of playing and creating I had as a child,” says Phia. 

Utilising the extraordinary percussive sounds of the Kalimba instrument combined with unique guitar riffs by musician Joshua Teicher, this song guides listeners through musical landscapes that are beautifully intimate and extraordinary.

Phia also explores how her songs can create movements through ‘The Path’ music video as she experiments with choreography and dance, helping her find another way to portray and deliver the emotions within the song. The artist also reminisces on the experience as one she will always look fondly on.

“This was one of the most fun fays I’ve ever had. Dressing up and learning choreography with [the] choir and creating this bold piece of art I’m so proud of. My grandmother, Hanny Exiner, was a dancer and creative dance therapist and I felt very close to her as I made this video, expressing the emotions in the song through movement, feeling it in my body,” Phia says.

Her second track, ‘Turning Around’, immediately picks up the pace as the melody and lyrics take the listener on a unique experience as if you are being carried around in circles throughout the song. The instruments are perfectly quieter when the singer is almost considering her choices in the lyrics and are then picked up in the chorus as added vocal harmonies jump into the song to help guide her through the tasks she must complete.

She also explores this method of a faster pace in ‘Coffee After 3’, an entertaining and upbeat song where she asks a question I’m sure all of us have had regarding why coffee shops aren’t open after 3 pm. This song brings a sense of playfulness to the album, connecting listeners through its humour and a connected understanding of the song’s meanings.

Drawing inspiration from artists and choreography alike, Phia aims to deliver her heartfelt message to listeners through the use of musical and physical art. The album’s cover art is a painting of the musician done by local artist Tai Snaith.

“Tai is an artist I’ve admired and had a connection with for many years. I knew it was the right cover for the album because the artistry in her works is something that inspires me, and my direct gaze in the painting echoes the honesty I aimed for in these songs,” she says.

 

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Phia has a knack for choosing extremely appropriate titles for her songs that follow the lyrics and the speed and instrumental tracks. This is highly evident in her piece titled ‘Cool Change’ through the use of the bells and pace of the lyrics to create an almost frigid atmosphere juxtaposed towards the end of the song as the protagonist wants to change from this cold sphere into something ‘more’.

The artist allows her voice and the choir to carry most of the album rather than strong instrumentals, instead having them appear more in the background. Additionally, this is especially evident in the album’s last track, Radio Waves, where the vocals organise the flow and tempo of the song.

The songs within this album are unique and display different messages but similar feelings of release. The artist seems to be allowing herself to fully and unapologetically put her emotions on display, hoping people accept her for who she is. 

Within her album, Phia uses tempos and instrumentals to display different emotions. Seemingly, she uses faster beats and more instrumentals in her songs to ask questions. In contrast, when she slows things down and leaves out some of the backing tracks, she displays more of the emotional feelings she has concerning specific topics.

Choir vocal additions by Melbourne Indie Voices make various appearances within this album in the songs; ‘The Path’, ‘Full Circle, ‘It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better’ and ‘Radio Waves. The addition of this truly talented group brings a unique vibe to this album that fits in perfectly within the Indie music genre and helps create a significant level of depth and heartfelt range to each track.

The highly anticipated live single launch of ‘The Path’ at the Melbourne Recital Centre Elizabeth Murdoch Hall this Friday, June 17th, featuring the Melbourne Indie Voices and special guest Mark Lang has already sold out. 

However, you can still listen to the whole album here or access the album’s focus track ‘The Path’ here and experience Phia’s extraordinary musical and vocal talents.