Opposing forces fuel Phosphorescent 

click to enlarge Phosphorescent frontman Matthew Houck, touring behind new album "Muchacho," pens music about the human spectrum. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Phosphorescent frontman Matthew Houck, touring behind new album "Muchacho," pens music about the human spectrum.

He hails from Alabama, lives in Brooklyn, and has a country-based twang that frequently envelops haunting, atmospheric electronic sounds.

Contrarian Matthew Houck's bipolar philosophy has helped achieve a following for his group Phosphorescent, which plays the Fillmore on Saturday.

"I've always been fascinated with themes of light and dark, loss and redemption, happiness and sadness," says Houck, who previously performed as Fillup Shack before adopting the name Phosphorescent. "I think there is really something meaningful to be explored in those kinds of opposing forces."

Although he's been delving into the subject for years, Houck has reached new heights with his latest album, "Muchacho," a wide-ranging collection of songs ranging from neo-noir compositions, to faithful Americana ballads, to eerily hopeful and synth-heavy recordings.

The album's centerpiece is "Muchacho's Tune," the first song Houck wrote after an extended break following a tour promoting his previous record, "Here's To Taking It Easy."

The song, which Houck has professed to be autobiographical, touches delicately on the healing process that comes from fractured relationships, evidenced by lyrics such as "I'll fix myself up / and come and be with you."

"You know, a lot of songs need nurturing and manhandling before they're ready to be recorded," Houck says. "But that one just came out fully developed, and it really helped set the tone for the rest of the album."

Other standouts such as "Song for Zula" and "Quotidian Beasts" find Houck mining familiar ground and contemplating difficulties of reconciliation, his voice wavering and cracking at times.

Houck has made no secret of destructive tendencies (drugs and alcohol) that arise when a band is on tour and begrudgingly has come to accept that touring is essential to the life of the musician, although he's adapting better on his latest go-around.

"I think that things have changed somewhat, where maybe the atmosphere is a little tamer, but it's still definitely tough," Houck says. "But that's something we deal with, because you really can't complain about this job."

One thing that has made life a little easier this year is touring on a bus, the first time he has been able to afford to; it's one perk that comes with having a critically acclaimed album, which has attracted a new generation of fans.

"We're definitely playing bigger venues and seeing most of them sold out a few weeks in advance, which is new to us," Houck says. "The whole thing has been very rewarding, and quite frankly, humbling for me. It's been an amazing experience so far."



Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $21.50

Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.thefillmore.com

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Will Reisman

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