Written by Travis Shosa
Exceedingly few are artists who could hope to challenge the prolificacy of New York-based songwriter and composer Zach Phillips. A dozen albums released over the past decade under his name don’t scratch the surface; they might as well not even be touching it. Equally productive is the recently revived Blanche Blanche Blanche: a partnership with Sarah Smith which cranked out albums during the first half of the 2010s. CE Schneider Topical, Perfect Angels, and even Danny Cruz’s Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth: Trout Mask Replica worship obfuscated by a namesake better suited to a D&D group that moonlights as a local power metal band. None are identical, though most–not all–share commonalities. Phillips often gravitates towards forming duos with women, usually to the end of crafting pop music that is in some way adjacent to tourmate Stereolab: jazzy here, psychedelic there, perhaps both elsewhere but always in service of a Godard-esque cool.
The groundswell of cult support for Fievel Is Glauque stands as an anomaly among Phillips’ side projects, though it’s not entirely difficult to understand why. Recordings are warm and organic, capturing the intimacy of a night at a smoky, high-end club, while French-Belgian vocalist Ma Clément’s precise, nimble phrasing allows Phillips to push the complexities of his compositions further than ever before. “Save the Phenomenon,” the first single from Flaming Swords (out November 25 on MATH), balances prog technicality with the delicate beauty of post-rock within an efficient and bafflingly breezy 1:46. Drums mete out quick, ever-shifting polyrhythms which Clément effortlessly matches in lockstep. Saxophones build to and fall from crescendos within mere seconds while sprawling guitar passages last nary a moment longer. Even as “Save the Phenomenon” can sound like a 3x speed Black Country, New Road tune with an extra swing in its step, it never feels rushed or overbearing. Its most remarkable quality is the ease at which it puts the listener. Though it was likely a nightmare to achieve, “Save the Phenomenon” is an exercise in kineticism as relaxation: a contradiction that makes far more sense than it rightfully should.
For more Fievel Is Glauque, you can watch the video for “Simple Affairs,” from their debut God’s Trashmen Sent to Right the Mess:
Travis Shosa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Stamens/Pistils/Parties. Formerly the runner of COUNTERZINE, he has bylines at Pitchfork, The Alternative, and Post-Trash among others.