The Books - "The Way Out", Album Review

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STREET DATE: 07.20.10 | EMUSIC | AMAZON| INSOUND | ITUNES

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RATE The Way Out:
[STARRATER]

The Books’ fifth record, The Way Out, is the New York duo’s first in five years. Constructed almost entirely of random, obscure samples, most of them from thrift store cassettes, cut up and pitch-shifted sometimes beyond recognition, with occasional, understated acoustic instrumentation, TheWay Out is probably like nothing you’ve ever heard. It’s like a science experiment – fittingly, guitarist and mastermind Nick Zammuto was a Williams College chemistry student (his bandmate and former neighbor Paul de Jong is a cellist) – a Rube Goldberg machine, putting totally unexpected things together and hoping for the best. Somehow, it works. Somehow, the Books make tuneful, funky, fascinating music out of totally disparate pieces.

It’s unabashedly nerdy – fitting, coming from a chemist and a cellist – one song, “Beautiful People,” is a tribute to the twelfth root of two, which defines the mathematical relationship between musical notes. WHOA! It’s also occasionally unlistenable – too grating and irritating, namely on “I Am What I Am” – occasionally hypnotizing – a home-hypnosis tape sampled on album opener “Group Autogenics I” insists “your body is now a glass container” – and occasionally hilarious – “A Cold Freezin’ Night” consists of samples of kids insulting each other over a quick metronome, cartoon sounds, Motown horn blasts, and an irresistible bassline. Whatever it is – Zammuto has called it “collage music,” which seems to be a fitting moniker – it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s endlessly fascinating.

81 — [Rating Scale]