Zammuto - Anchor - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Zammuto - Anchor

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2014-09-01

Like Nick Zammuto’s previous solo album, Anchor was recorded and mixed in the artist’s home studio, situated in a tractor-garage on a Vermont farm. However, where 2012’s Zammuto was a sometimes disorientating mix of Auto-Tune and prog-rock, here the former Books member seems to edge a little closer to the mainstream.

Of course, it could be that the mainstream has moved a little closer to Zammuto. With the song-based electronica/alt-R&B (call it what you will) of FKA twigs commanding so much attention, and the not-dissimilar likes of Banks and Jessie Ware placing such sounds in a pop context, it feels like the zeitgeist has finally caught up with Zammuto’s vaporous but melodic confections.

That said, this is still the work of an artist who slides effortlessly between genres. Opener ‘Good Graces’ begins as pure Brian Eno ambience before a satisfyingly meaty combination of organ and beats kicks in, foreshadowing Zammuto’s airless, feminine vocals. It’s a beautiful, mysterious start to the album.

‘Great Equator’ is a denser, darker piece. Zammuto appears to be bidding farewell to a lover over skittering beats and doomy chords. Then, just over halfway through, it suddenly switches to a perky, danceable chiptune break. The excellent ‘Hegemony’ marks another stark change – over tumbling, frenetic free-jazz drums, spasming organ and rumbling feedback, female vocals coo the song’s title, switching between the two accepted ways of pronouncing it.

The album’s basic elements are splashing beats, ambient synth and chunky organ, but Zammuto does a great job of varying the ingredients from song to song, preventing the album from becoming samey. ‘Need Some Sun’ is powered by aggressive, punky bass, providing the perfect bedrock for the album’s most conventionally song-based moment. Similarly, ‘IO’ could almost be a Hives garage-rock number that’s been thoroughly, brilliantly fucked with, making it 20 times more funky and odd.

At the other extreme, the wonderfully titled instrumental ‘Don’t Be a Tool’, ‘Sinker’, ‘Your Time’, and the ghostly ‘Stop Counting’ swim in deep rivers of dub, post-rock and trip-hop atmospherics. Meanwhile, ‘Electric Ant’ is the closest the album gets to alt-R&B, with its 808-style beats and Zammuto’s sexy, Prince-patented yelps.

Such variation in the space of one album is a dizzying pleasure. Few current bands and artists are managing to master just one of the styles Zammuto knocks out with a flourish here. It’s high-time he was given the recognition he richly deserves. 

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