Review: The Books

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‘Neither of us finds the contents of our heads particularly interesting’

Thus claimed Nick Zammuto, one half of The Books, in a recent interview. But, whatever they might have you believe, for nearly ten years the duo have, in fact, been making some of the most unique and creative music around. Over the course of four albums, The Books have developed themselves a niche all of their own, falling somewhere between Four Tet’s folk tinged electronica and the cut-and-paste mash-ups of The Avalanches. And following the success of last year’s acclaimed The Way Out, Temporary Residence will be reissuing The Books’ first three albums in the coming months, starting with debut Thought For Food.

The Books have described their work as ‘collage music’, layering live instrumentation (mostly acoustic guitars and violins) with spoken word samples taken from an abundance of obscure sources. Although this might all sound like rather pretentious formalism, The Books’ sense of humour is on show throughout Thought For Food, cutting their samples in such a way as to playfully distort their original meanings. On ‘Contempt’, the band constructs an absurd conversation between two men – “Do you like my ankles?” “Yes, enormously” – and ‘All Our Base Are Belong To Them’ declares “Welcome to the human race…you’re a mess” before kicking into full flow.

One of the few tracks to feature Zammuto’s vocals prominently, ‘All Our Base…’ hints at the direction the band would take on their peerless sophomore effort The Lemon Of Pink. Striking a precise balance between their experimental leanings and more traditional song structures, the track represents one of Thought For Food’s finest moments but, at the same time, does highlight the weaknesses of some of the more formless pieces on the record.

With this album, The Books were just beginning to explore the possibilities afforded to them by their idiosyncratic methods. The music here is at once deep and intelligent but at the same time light-hearted, almost goofy. Like kids in a candy shop, the sense of wonder with which the band treat their source material is infectious and one will find it almost impossible to listen to Thought For Food without a smile on one’s face.

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