Zammuto, formerly of the Brooklyn-based experimental-sound collage duo The Books, will spend the next month on the road promoting his sophomore album “Anchor,” a follow-up to 2012’s “Zammuto.” The new effort was recorded entirely in his mountainside recording studio in Readsboro, which also graces the front of the album.
While in some ways the album still plays like a collage, Zammuto has taken his work in a new direction, coinciding with his increasing satisfaction with performing live, and the desire for drum-backed sound. Performing and creating under the moniker “Zammuto,” he believes he has found the creative foundation for his future. “Anchor” is a reinvention and a huge step forward.
“We (The Books) made four records over 10 years and it was a great run but there was an imbalance that was unfixable, and The Books ended in an unfortunate way, but it’s something that had to end,” said Zammuto. “My first record was transitional having come after a breakup that made me feel terrible. I was in a position where I had to totally reinvent myself, and when I go back and listen to that record, it’s very transitional. I played more than 100 shows in support of that record and it was the band I put together that really came together in a solid way, so now I really have a vision for where we can take it.”
While drum tracks may be the most notable addition to Zammuto’s work, the album features a collection of sounds which somehow weave their way into an all-encompassing trademark genre which Zammuto has mastered over the course of 15 years. The best way to describe his music is by his own creed of “Do it yourself.”
“Anchor” is more conventional in ways that Zammuto’s past work are not, due to its calming, warm, almost meditative tracks like “Your Time” and the opener “Good Graces,” as well as its real rockers such as “IO,” and the bass-pumping “Need Some Sun.” Anchor is also notable for its fairly non-complex yet intriguing lyrical content. Love songs are mixed with the contemplative, like “Your Time,” with tells “sooner or later/gonna meet your maker/ oh yes sir/ gonna meet her/ What you do between now and then/ gonna make it easy/ gonna make it hard.” The record features some captivating instrumentals, too, such as “Don’t Be a Tool,” and “Code Breaker,” with a Paul Simon “Rhythm of the Saints” vibe to the ending, completing the record on a high note.
“I try to make tracks with a lot of detail in them so you can listen over and over and keep discovering,” said Zammuto. “There’s an immediacy to the sound in this record that makes the listener feel like they’re in the same room with the record and that’s hard to pull off mix-wise, so I’m very proud of the technical aspects of it. At the same time, it’s friendly to listen to and takes you to strange places if you let it. There’s no formula to the record, its like a journey, and that’s the kind of record I want to make, where something starts in one place and ends in a completely different place, rather than a unified, collection of songs. It has to be deeper than that.”
The recording of “Anchor” was made possible with funds raised from his IndieGoGo campaign, which raised 350% of his goal, and allowed him to finish building his recording studio as well.
Zammuto called the recording process laborious. His routine is to knock off one or two tracks at a time, almost scientifically, filing through hours of tracks from recording sessions with his musicians, and finding “delicious moments” to interject into any given tune.
Lyrically, Zammuto says the album takes themes from the traditional (as in songs like “Henry Lee”) as well as reflections on his current life as a husband and father of three. “They feel true to my experience as I get older and my perspective keeps changing. It’s a reflection of where I’m at in this moment and I tend to reach into old lyrics for inspiration a lot. There are classic ways of writing lyrics that reach far back into the traditions of this country and others, so on a few songs I draw pretty specifically from old folk songs and made them my own in a way.”
While Zammuto is a composer and an engineer first, he’s found that performing is essential to the survival of the musician.
While it is work, and a time he dreads being away from his family, Zammuto has grown to appreciate performing live, which he says is incredibly satisfying at this stage in his career. “Anchor” is currently featured on NPR First Listen, which is creating a great amount of exposure. With the band retooled, Zammuto is ready to introduce his new work on stage throughout North America and Australia this year, and Europe next year.
“We’ve set up the dominoes the entire last year, and now it becomes kinetic instead of potential,” said Zammuto. “People who survive as artists have a compulsion to make this stuff and I’m humbled and honored to be a part of that group, and that I can keep doing it. To have a career last more than five to 10 years in this business is hard, and I feel I have a lot more music in me.”
“Anchor” will be released on Monday, September 2, and will be available on Zammutosound.com.