Decayed Tapes

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Zoom In: Blanche Blanche Blanche/Bruce Hart/OSR Tapes

"If you try to wink your way through music, or your job, or your relationships, or whatever it is, you basically are going to perish as a fool" states Zach Phillips a.k.a. Bruce Hart while explaining the hilarious title of Blanche Blanche Blanche’s Wink With Both Eyes. Zach continues "but if you wink about the wink, winking with both eyes is blinking, you know? It’s functional, delivers saline to the eyes. But in that instant that they’re shut, extend that via Zeno’s paradox and you have an infinite array of "awareness moments" of blind consciousness!"

In fact, the philosophy of “all is one” makes some justice to the way Zach approaches his many projects, say for example, Bruce Hart and Blanche Blanche Blanche. About that, Zach points out that “Bruce Hart is a romantic character… I don’t know if I can distinguish between that project and any other”. How then he prevent himself going nuts? Zach answers: “except when I’m working on an album. Every album I work on is a distinct entity and I like to set certain parameters in the form of rules, equipment & compositional themes. when the album’s done, I move on.”

And move on is exactly what he’s all about. He’s left his Bruce Hart project for good to focus on his work with Sarah Smith, Blanche Blanche Blanche. He explains enthusiastically the reasons why: “Blanche Blanche Blanche explains itself. It’s radical content, man! Spend some more time with those records because they’ve got about 5,000 more layers than the Bruce Hart onion. Bruce Hart is a one-dimensional man, and that’s all he was ever intended to be: mama’s little prototype. The first Bruce Hart album is one-dimensional multitracked synthesizer improvisations in a jokey “cosmiche” style. The second Bruce Hart album is distorted rock songs on a Glenn Frey/Steve Miller axis. Blanche Blanche Blanche is where the work is at as far as I’m concerned.” 

But let’s face it, Bruce Hart is pretty cool, and ‘Music for Drawing' is such a solid and beautiful piece of art. In 2011 'Music for Drawing' was released through the most venerable record label Not Not Fun, one of the most important imprints of modern era. What was it like the experience for Zach? “Never met em [Britt & Amanda Brown]. Emailed em out of the blue because I had a feeling that first Bruce Hart album would be up their alley. I told them to run with whatever ideas they had, which led to the cover/cyberpunk imagery. I just wanted to make a tape for my friends to draw to. I know a lot of amazing visual artists so that’s my small contribution to their work experience.”

Given that I am a huge Bruce Hart fan, I needed to know its origins, its inception: “I had the idea of making a song called “Am I Wearing Glasses” — it turned out later I was thinking of Alexander Robotnick’s “Can I Have An Ashtray.” I was imagining a Rheingold “Augenblick” kind of character — look up that song and you’ll know what I mean. I don’t know if Bruce will make an appearance again… probably! Til then there is plenty of work to do.”

In contrast with the one-dimensional man that is Bruce Hart Blanche Blanche Blanche is certainly more complex, but complexity isn’t the one factor that Zach consider as the distinctly trait of Blanche Blanche Blanche, instead “what’s really complex is the interplay of my personality with Sarah’s. The guiding paradigm is counterpoint. I just like working with Sarah [Smith]. She’s an incredible musician.” Zach gets pretty serious when talking about Sarah: “I can tell you that she has an incredibly quick melodic sense and a legendary sense of humor. She can take material and shine an anti-bullshit ray straight through the heart of it. She just burns through a track real good, it’s a pleasure arranging and mixing her awesome voice. Her lowest note is the C# above middle C.” Serious indeed, but sweet, also. And just for the record, the lovely Sarah Smith is not Emilie Friedlander.

On the first listen, Blanche Blanche Blanche sounds way hyper and shapeshifting, way too fast to keep up to. On the second listen you start to to view the wide pop panorama and on the third listen to start to sing along. Case in point is the impressive pop mammoth ‘Body Talk’. Body Talk is pop in every angle, the gossip news not-sample, the possitive lyrics, the killer syth patterns, the hook, everything! The perfect pop song in unusual delivery fashion. Certainly, it’s an unusual pop band too.

In super sharp contrast to Bruce Hart Blanche Blanche Blanche does have an aim, a purpose in life: “we have a couple goals. One is to write and record radical, novel musical content. That means exploring new areas of song structure, beat division and tonality. This comes out of the politics of music and our fannish engagement with radical, novel music. Another goal has nothing to do with that, and it’s to tell the truth about ourselves, our friends, our jobs, where we live, various powerful discourses, etc.” Blanche Blanche Blanche’s multi-dimensional personality and goals are actually grander in scale than one might expect: “finally, one of our goals is to consolidate power with our fellow musicians and build a widespread audience for the amazing music our friends are making in Brattleboro, Vermont and elsewhere.”

How is Zach planning to do that? Through his impeccable record label OSR Tapes.

Zach despise the conceptualization of a label operator as a “curator.” That’s a really rare statement to make in an artistic world where everyone crave to be called, or refer to as, a curator. The process of releasing a record on OSR “has nothing to do with contextualizing that piece of music within some art constellation. I release music because the music itself is incredible, it has incredible content and incredible aims. And, of course, love to do whatever small thing I can to boost the profile of my incredible musician friends, with the eventual goal of us all being able to work on music full time.”

Exciting projects are on their way everywhere. For one thing Zach is planning to release a bunch of cool stuff on OSR. New tapes from the Howling Hex, Tori Kudo, Better Psychics, Joey Pizza Slice aka Son of Salami, tons of videos and, hopefully, a project with Ruth Garbus, who is currently working on a new album. 

Exciting news about Blanche Blanche Blache are also pretty appealing. Blanche Blanche Blanche’s 7th album will be released through an exquisite record label (that I’m not allowed to disclose at this time). Zach and Sarah are also working on two other albums. One will be a live recording to be released on a new record label called Wharfcat Records and, the other, well, it’s going to be truly amazing!
Finally, as an individual who was marked by the thought-provoking article “hypnagogic pop”, I had to ask Zach his opinion about the matter. He said: “Insofar as I despise the prevailing weak-kneed conceptual vocabulary, I am absolutely indebted to the idea-peddlers of “hypnagogic pop,” “nostalgia,” “naivety,” “lo-fi pop,” and so on for supplying me with a million ways to not make music, to not think about music, and to not listen to music.” Oh well well well, there you go, David ;-)
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