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Fresh Pages: Samples from the Sound-World of The Books.

By Nick Riddle.

The Books (Photo: Nino P.)

Radio 3’s Late Junction is pretty good at digging up a few curious and engaging pieces from the loamy subsoil of music’s less-frequented corners. Thanks to Fiona Talkington and co, I am no longer a knee-jerk knitter of the eyebrows at the mere mention of electronica or sampling. I discovered I’m quite partial to Matthew Herbert, especially his  Plat du Jour, which does inventive things with the sound of food (and makes political points about the food industry, if you want to take such things on board), and Matmos, whose album   The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast revels in references to Patricia Highsmith, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Joe Meek and King Ludwig II Of Bavaria.

But best and most listenable of all is the Boston duo,  The Books. Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong trawl through jumble sales and thrift stores for old home-recorded cassettes and use them to build, er, sound collages with music. No, that doesn’t do them justice. Their albums are stuffed with oddness, humour, non-sequitur, a kind of absurdist pathos, and - crucial, this - terrific music, inspired by minimalism and American folk and played mostly on acoustic instruments. 

The Books also ransack old videocassettes in search of footage for their videos, making them more than unusually worth looking for on YouTube. Try these two for size: The first a glimpse into the violent world of young siblings, the second a track that gallops ruminatively through someone’s four-minute daydream.  



Any of their four full-length albums is worth a go. Their DVD, Play All, is great if you like free-association montages, but you can end up feeling a bit mad if you overdo it in one sitting. You can order it from  The Books’ website.  

Nick Riddle works at Bristol University and blogs about an obscure troubadour legend at The Afterlife of Jaufre Rudel.

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