All over the world, bands and musicians toil away in practice spaces of various shapes and sizes, working to construct songs. In most cases, these artists strive to create music that expresses some sort of emotion, or is meant to provoke a similar response in its listeners. It's a safe bet that a lot of these bands have it off a lot harder as long as the Books are still around.
Beautiful bits and bytes The Books’ past albums featured field recordings set to sparse acoustic ramblings (2002’s debut, Thought for Food) and sprinkled amongst the band’s own nonsensical wordings (2005’s Lost and Safe). On The Way Out, their fourth and most dazzling work to date, the duo strikes an ideal balance between found-sound collage and original vocalizations. Singer Nick Zammuto occasionally chimes in to pay tribute to the mathematical relationship between musical notes (“Beautiful People”) and mourn nature’s cyclical tendencies (“We Bought the Flood”).
The Way Out is an intricate collage of forgotten recordings recast into the musical form known as The Books. On their first full album in five years, Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong generously deliver 14 beautifully-different tracks, including a rare four with vocals. This electronic-folk duo, in the likeness of bohemian hedonists, turns meticulous attention-to-detail into bounding creativity—and something unequivocally bookish.
In their decade or so as The Books, Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong have produced a well-defined brand of electroacoustic music that is truly their own, the singular product of two active minds in collaboration. Their work has grown out of an extensive found sound catalog, and explores the relationships between language and sound, speech and music. While the result doesn’t seem informed by any particular genre or movement, they’ve characterized it in the past as “collage music,” a label that neatly captures the curatorial vision of the project.
Considering its strange mix of "found footage" vocal samples, analog and digital instruments and semi-ironic tone, The Way Out is a remarkably easy listen. It's not conventional by any means, but this first album in five years from aural collage artists Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong is immensely listenable, as serene as it is unclassifiable. [rssbreak] Those familiar with the Books' style will find plenty of their trademark juxtapositional humour - Beautiful People's pseudo-religious hymn to math, say, or The Story Of Hip Hop's rabbit-centric children's story.
"Welcome to a new beginning" declares a voice at the start of The Way Out, and this album does indeed mark a fresh new chapter for the Books: a return to record-making five years after the fantastic Lost and Safe, on a new label, with a newly open-ended, wide-ranging approach to their work. It may not initially sound that way: opener "Group Autogenics I," one of several pieces that draw on guided meditation-style self-help recordings, feels almost like Books-by-numbers, with a gently humorous, disorienting oddness, juxtaposed with genuinely deeply relaxing sonics, that will be immediately familiar to fans of their past albums. After that, though, the duo stretches beyond its comfort zone in multiple directions at once, pushing at the boundaries of an already utterly singular style.
The Books have a terrific sense of humor-- and it makes The Way Out, an album built on eccentric vocal samples, a good-natured discovery instead of a cheap piece of mockery. Imagine if a blog had posted these clips of goofball hypnotherapist and meditation consultants, or found a tape of a boy and a girl swapping violent threats with each other: You'd chuckle and move on. But when the Books use these samples, they give them integrity.
While we’re all waiting for the new Avalanches album, The Books have delivered their own pot-pourri of samples to tide us over. Not that they’ve been particularly hasty about it either, mind. It might not have taken them the nine years and counting the Australians have racked up to produce their new LP, but it’s still been five years since the New York duo Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong’s last album Lost and Safe.
The Books have always been a psychedelic listen, but never has the experience been so trenchantly mind altering as it is here. Even as far back as their debut Thought for Food, a release that stands not only as a magnum opus for the group but sound collage as a whole, the group was selling out-of-context vocal found sounds over strident, folk-oriented string instruments. Mainly cello.