Prolific Brooklyn-via-Brattleboro artist Zach Phillips of Blanche Blanche Blanche and OSR Tapes has just released a new cassette on Portland/LA’s Gnar Tapes. Entitled New Cartoons, it is rich and full of strange resonances. The songs, recorded on a Tascam 488 eight-track, are each around a minute long and take no time in starting or ending, making the album a dizzy sonic undertaking. The opening track begins with the statement: “People say that their happiness isn’t like the trees, but they still wanna put down roots and throw off their leaves.” Simple yet emotionally and philosophically charged lyrics like these mark the remainder of the record, which features plenty of acoustic piano, whistles, and bass guitar.
Some of the songs, like “I’m Wide Awake”, recall Daniel Johnston in their melody and pace. Others, like “Half” and “Follow The Broom”, are reminiscent of old doo-wop tunes—Phillips layers vocal melodies over big wordless harmonies that blend so well with the backing instruments that they adopt an instrumental quality themselves. Or else he juxtaposes discordant and out-of-sync vocal tracks so that foreground and background meld into one. Some songs are gloomy, with drooping harmonies; some are energetic and lighthearted; others hover in the ether between; and turns in mood seem to be instantaneous. In putting so many feeling-laden songs at such close quarters, Phillips has made something indescribably moving.