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Blanche Blanche Blanche are releasing their final record November 17th on OSR, titled “Hints to Pilgrims.” After bringing forth a gracious heap of beautiful music for the world to joyfully sift through, Sarah Smith and Zach Phillips are capping their collaboration for the moment with this strong and restrained final statement. Regardless of this being their final release, “Hints to Pilgrims” stands on its own as a testament to Smith-Phillips’ chemistry and consistent musical energy. It’s crafted out of a potent, dynamic and concise combination of bass, guitar, voice, piano, and “performative recording.” Each song is executed with a kind of clarity and determination rarely displayed at such a relentless pace.

Dig the dense chords which underlie the addictive opening track, “War Games” from start to finish. Dig how the percussion is reduced to barely a sound: skeletal, muffled, almost tactile. Then get ready for “New Food” to pick up the pace, bouncing along with some pep in its hyper-focused, hyper-melodic step. Contained therein are some telling words on publicity and music as well as a mind-melting guitar solo courtesy of Kurt Weisman. And those are just the first two tracks! Right off the bat, BBB make it clear that they aren’t wasting any time or space.

Leaving behind plans for (according to the OSR Website) a “blindingly elaborate methodology” and a “teetering tower of collaborators,” “Hints to Pilgrims” sees Smith and Phillips working seamlessly to create meticulously carved, brilliantly-hollow interpretations of loosely punk, psych, rock, and pop material. As the one-sheet reads: “The Hyped Beat-lyric ‘punk’ songs are missing drums. The psychedelic ‘ballads’ are missing the traditional array of effects augmentation. No synthesizer, computer processing or outboard effects were necessary to serve these songs and preserve their identities.” Tracks like “No Problem, “Honeycomb,” and “Vacuum” tear forward on the pure energy of unadorned, purely gestural guitar figures tracing lines in the sparse musical space alongside Smith’s measured, impressive lyrical-vocal practice. “Casa Rialto,” “Uncrazy,” and “Other People’s Music” dissect the piano-voice relationship, resulting in a dose of haunting, comforting, and enlightening moments courtesy of each track respectively. “Shadow Tours” and “Priests In Robes” take their strong melodic fragments straight into the ear of the listener, where they will (based on my experience at least) make themselves right at home.

If one takes a moment to read up on this record at the OSR website, or to check out some of Zach’s thoughts in the interview we recently did, it will become clear that there is a depth of content within “Hints to Pilgrims” that relies on both the music and the lyrics as a unified force. In fact, with the aforementioned reading in mind, combined with the lyrics to “New Food” and other tracks like “No Problem,” “Review This,” and “Other People’s Music,” one can be certain that there is a lot to consider – or at least take in. It’s not a “concept album” necessarily, but there are some themes which are posited, if perhaps not shoved down your throat. I’d rather let Sarah and Zach’s words speak for themselves at the end of the day, remarking only that these songs speak to me as distilled expressions of Smith and Phillips’ ultimately inspiring capacity to make music that is truly their own, as opposed to other people’s.

Grab a copy of “Hints to Pilgrims” on vinyl from OSR this week and cherish this (for now) final record from one of New England’s most distinct and poignant duos. There are also some visual goodies to enjoy in conjunction with the new tunes, one of which is included after the Bandcamp link below.

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