Jay Leo Phillips has spent the last two decades fronting the post-punk trio Apollo Up! and lending his talents to a variety of bands including ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Forget Cassettes, CHARGES and The Prudish Few. With the release of his new instrumental EP, Days (yk records), he consciously and intentionally stepped away from his usual techniques in order to explore an evolutionary growth in his palette of sounds.
Phillips first gained notoriety in Nashville and beyond with his penchant for post-hardcore/post-punk distorted guitars reminiscent of late-70s and early-80s combined with his Costello-esque vocals, often unleashed with wild abandon. In 2016, he recorded One Million, One Million, One Million (yk records) in his home studio, taking on the task of playing every instrument. While his hallmark guitar sound was integrated, the album was a small departure from purely rock instrumentation that embraced beats, sampling and techniques akin to a modernized New Romantic style.
With Days, Phillips decided to eschew his vocals almost entirely and craft a more subdued and reflective body of work. He re-arranged his home studio to optimize capturing inspiration and iterating on song ideas more efficiently, starting each composition from basic drums and Rhodes parts. The delicate layering of brass, glockenspiel, piano, strings and guitar - again, all performed by Phillips himself - results in a lighter and more atmospheric sound, occasionally harkening back to mid-90’s jazz influenced artists like The Sea and Cake, Tortoise or the guitar soundscapes of Jim O’Rourke.
Even in the absence of his raspy vocal baritone, the Phillips melodic style is present throughout, most notably on “The Early World of Days”; with its signature swirling guitar moves. These moments of distinct familiarity are few and far between, as Days explores new territory. “You Might Not Like What You See When You Get There” embraces a funkier side and “During During” is downright meditative. With Days, Phillips embraces reduction and the results are a wider expanse of sound. He hasn’t lost his voice, he’s defined it more concretely without saying a word.