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Trey Anastasio "Scabbard"
If a group of Trey Anastasio’s geekiest fans got together and brainstormed the concept for the guitarist’s next musical direction, his new tune “Scabbard” probably wouldn’t fall too far off the mark. Departing from the lyrically based songs that have come from Anastasio in recent years, “Scabbard” is a proggier, more expansive side of the guitarist’s compositional prowess—one that, in more than one way, recalls one of his earliest inspirations, Frank Zappa.
In the past, Anastasio has noted that, while his early compositional explorations were largely harmonically based, Zappa’s compositions base themselves more on rhythmic concepts. This seems to be a direction Anastasio has taken with “Scabbard,” which features a xylophone mimicking many of the arpeggiated guitar lines, recalling Zappa’s frequent use of marimba, vibraphone and other percussive instruments.
It seems as though “Scabbard” picks up where Anastasio last led his compositional trail. The song’s shifting chord sequence recalls elements of earlier numbers such as “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” “Pebbles and Marbles,” as well as “Time Turns Elastic.” But where the latter tune lost listeners in its overly expansive, disjointed intricacy, “Scabbard” succeeds by tying together several musical concepts into a single, cohesive piece.
When Anastasio entered the studio with producer Peter Katis (The National, Interpol, Jonsi), he said that he planned to utilize the environment as its own instrument. You can hear the influence of that intent in this track. Throughout “Scabbard,” but especially at the beginning and end, thick layers of percussion provide a backdrop to the song’s lush instrumentation. Both acoustic and electric guitars can be heard throughout the song, and surprisingly, neither venture into noodle-y guitar solo territory. But it’s Anastasio’s effect-laden vocals that perhaps stand out most, and provide a welcome departure from his often-dry vocal approach.
Following years of personal turmoil and songs that reflected that period, “Scabbard” is a return to Anastasio’s knack for sprawling major key compositions. With a clear influence from his recent orchestral work, the song is sure to delight fans of the guitarist’s more avant-garde music. “Scabbard” appears on Anastasio’s forthcoming album Traveler and is available now digitally and on 7” vinyl formats.
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