One can imagine that after 45 years of making music, one of Mick Harvey’s greatest artistic challenges is finding new and exciting talents to work with. Enter Mexican singer and auteur Amanda Acevedo, with whom Harvey crafts an album of unassuming minimalism and heartfelt lyricism whose greatest strength is very simply the synergy between its creators. Throughout Phantasmagoria in Blue, Harvey and Acevedo evoke equal measures of vulnerability and assertiveness – not necessarily through the interplay of masculine/feminine dynamics. For example, in the subdued rendition of “Love is a Battlefield,” the slower, sparser arrangement of somber strings and guitars allow the voices to carry the themes; no longer is it a rocking number about female empowerment, but now presenting the regret and remorse of a failing relationship, leaving one with the hope for reconciliation amid heartache. The same can be said of the poetic “Indian Summer” with its lovely chord progression and organs evoking a French jazz vibe for the spoken word exchange of two souls desperately trying to connect, or the potency of lines like “I’ll never smile again” and “Our sands are shifting around” in “Phantasmagoria in 2,” the delayed acoustic guitar and lithe strings providing a sullen, swirling ambience for the vocals. It’s difficult not to think of Harvey’s tenure with The Bad Seeds or Crime and the City Solution when listening to “Trapeze,” both bands famously appearing in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, the song’s balance of playful, tumbling strings with acoustic guitar and trickling piano recalling images of the lonely Marion… was Harvey tapping into specific memories of 35 years ago? Only he knows, but it’s a poignant moment on the album. As well, the rendition of “Song to the Siren” the duo presents feels much closer to the folksy spirit of Tim Buckley’s song than the more renowned version by This Mortal Coil – perhaps less ethereal, but still dreamy in its expressiveness – while the jaunty country vibe of light banjos and Acevedo’s fetching melodies on the closing “You Got Me Singing” conclude the album with the welcome air of lightheartedness. Phantasmagoria in Blue is not so revelatory as it is simply a finely produced effort from two musicians that seem to have found each other at that impossibly perfect time that their talents would coalesce so fluidly. One hopes to hear more from Acevedo and Harvey, perhaps with even more of their own songwriting prowess next time.