The Way Out
Sep 01, 2010 Web Exclusive
The old saying goes that "One man's trash is another man's treasure." When it comes to discarded audio, The Books might argue that there's no such thing as trash.
The Way Out is their latest release in which Paul de Jong and Nick Zammuto create a unique whole by marrying original music with obscure found sounds and other pieces. Here, the duo gleaned from a wealth of old cassettes that promote a positive being, with self-help tapes, inspirational lectures, and New Age instruction providing a general theme. One can only imagine how giddy they must have been to discover priceless bits such as "Now put on some undergarments and go deeper" and the invaluable divulgence that the brain only uses about 95% of its capacity, and that the other 5% "Is available for food."
It's been a long stretch since their last full-length album, 2005's Lost and Safe, but The Way Out exhibits the care the pair takes in meticulously crafting these constructions. While The Books offer their own vocals here and there, voice samples provide most of the primary focus here, and the intricately layered music and embellishments are so finely woven around the messages that rooting at where the samples end and the original music begins is a useless pursuit.
Some of the most entertaining and intriguing tracks spring from other sources. "A Cold Freezin' Night" provides a colorful example of how children left to play freely with a recording device sometimes can't help but blurt something risqué, and The Books heighten the fun with some mad percussion.
In "Thirty Incoming," two sets of voicemail recordings are alternated and juxtaposed. One man leaves messages for the object of his affection, revealing the tentative relief of his meeting someone who so obviously relieved his loneliness, though you sense the creeping desperation in these years-old recordings and suspect that this probably didn't end well. De Jong and Zammuto choose upbeat voices and drums as the backdrop, opting not to provide a matching soundtrack for this caller's pathos, and they weave in messages in which a southern-accented voice makes it clear that someone named Bob probably deserves a good whipping. The inspired implication or mere suggestion that these calls could be related within this reshaped context is just one reason to hope that The Books' follow-up won't take another five years. (www.thebooksmusic.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 8/10