Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Books

Although The Books operate out of New York and their music would most likely be lumped in with that of the Williamsburg experimental folk “scene” that is currently so in vogue, they are really a different animal altogether. In a world of knock off folk-tronica acts, they are in a class of their own- having done it prior to and better than anyone in my humble opinion. Furthermore, the music Nick Zammuto and Paul du Jong have produced as The Books sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard.

They're sound is a melting pot of cello (provide by du Jong); acoustic guitar & electric bass (Zammuto); and copious amounts of found sound or field recordings. Gifted players that have a knack for sampling and layering to create texture, they’re palette is diverse and unpredictable. They are as likely to to sample their family at Thanksgiving as they are an instrument. And as likely to feature the incoherent rambling of some senior citizen as they are to sing. The result is a kaleidoscopic aural experience-- shifting textures revolving around an anchoring element that could be a guitar riff, a reversed cello part, or a random sample from the New York City streets. There are no drums to speak of, but as everyone knows, the guitar (as well as the cello I guess) can be an incredibly percussive instrument. When augmented by samples that range from the clinking of glass to the sound of train tracks, the songs really come to life with shuffling asymmetric rhythm.

If you are not so much into avant-garde music you’re initial reaction may not be positive. This may sound like some sort of jumbled mess, chaos even. But as the science of complexity (chaos) theory has taught us, chaos is ordered albeit in a manner more complex than what we are generally used to. I think this is an apt parallel for The Books. Every time I listen I pick up on something new. Many of the samples are spoken words and are chosen as much for what they communicate as for how they sound. Combined with innovative and intricate arrangements these are albums that pretty much demand repeat listening.

Fans of Caribou and Fourtet will almost certainly find something here. I’d say they are all shooting for a similar end result (at least as far as feel goes) but are approaching it from opposite angles. Whereas Fourtet uses samples to evoke the feeling of folk instrumentation, The Books deconstruct their instrumental compositions to produce something that is at once cohesive and divisible into it’s various elements.

These are the albums that I own, and they are all equally excellent.

Thought for Food
- Tomlab (2002)

The Lemon of Pink - Tomlab (2003)

Lost and Safe - Tomlab (2005)

If you want to check out something different hit The Books, you won’t be disappointed



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