With his now-defunct collaborative project the Books, Nick Zammuto stumbled upon a strange and innovative patchwork sound, blending homespun folk with left-field samples and electronic goo. But as a solo artist, he’s venturing even further into the unknown — first with his 2012 debut, Zammuto, a dizzying mix of Auto-Tune fizz, post-rock texture and prog-rock expansiveness, and now with Anchor, an equally ambitious but far more accessible sequel.
Like its predecessor, Anchor was written, recorded and mixed at Zammuto’s home tractor-garage studio, located on an idyllic Vermont farm. Unlike its predecessor, it feels like a confident, fully realized vision. The arrangements still sprawl with genre-splicing glee, but never at the expense of melody or dynamic force; and instead of masking his voice in effects, Zammuto sings frequently in warm, natural tones (the boyish cadence of eerie opener “Good Graces”), exploring the full depths of his vocal register (the almost sexy low croon on “Henry Lee,” an explosive twist on a traditional ballad supplemented with lyrics about crabs crawling out of skulls).
Still, Zammuto is a sonic craftsman at heart, and it’s a pleasure getting lost in his blizzards of sound. There’s hard-hitting, percussive funk insanity on “IO,” the spooky art-rock meditation of “Stop Counting” and skittering electro-pop on “Electric Ant.” “Great Equator” uses lush synth textures: It’s built on what sounds like a skipping record loop and probably is — Zammuto actually mastered the art of carving rhythmically strategic skips into a vinyl LP.
Anchor is a bold, imaginative step forward. By tethering his experimental quirks to sturdy songcraft, Zammuto’s musical possibilities truly seem endless.