July 19, 2010

Review: The Books | The Way Out

While it doesn't sound the way we had guessed it would, experimental folk copy-pasters The Books' latest surreal set The Way Out is the act's most emotionally direct work yet. It has been five years since the itinerant duo released its beautiful third full length Lost And Safe, but the career caesura does not appear to have affected its approach to creating captivating, inscrutable music. This despite the fact that the poignant, spine-tingling and almost sample-free closing cut on Lost And Safe was a relatively conventional ballad, which we had assumed was a harbinger of things to come from the band. We were wrong. Instead, The Way Out finds The Books retrenched in its familiar mesh of absurd found sounds, field recordings, acoustic instruments, beats and occasionally spiritual lyrics.

It took seeing The Books live (in 2005, as referenced in our review of Lost And Safe here) for us to realize how central humor is to its music. We had previously recognized the quirk, but the visuals the augmented duo used to accompany its mesmerizing, extended musical koans in a live setting made plain that The Books are as much amused by life as they are amazed by it. Perhaps because of that experience we find The Way Out to be the most humorous of The Books' four iconoclastic full lengths; one listen to the hilarious amalgamation of kids goofin' called "A Cold Freezin' Night" bears this out. But it's not just the humor that is more potent: "I Am Who I Am" is stunning in its cold aggression (well, relative aggression). While we recognize that The Books are satirizing the quasi-dictatorial/actually kind of pathetic declarations that are sampled, the song is uncharacteristically dark, but thrillingly so. "I Am Who I Am" features a male voice emphatically ranting over a jungle-ish rhythm track and something like electric bassoon drones; the result sounds like something created by Pailhead, the amazing '80s collaboration between Fugazi fronter Ian Mackaye and Ministry's Al Jourgenson.

We found a record store/label that has posted samples from each song on The Way Out to Soundcloud, and so we've embedded the series of samples below. Please support The Books and pick up this very special record July 20 (tomorrow) when it is released. Or, of course, you can buy the thing from the duo's new label, Temporary Residence, right here. The Books have booked an uncharacteristically long (we think) strand of tour dates to support the release of The Way Out, and all the dates we are aware of as of this writing are posted below. Boston-area readers should make special note of The Books' appearances at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival next month and at The Somerville Theater in October.

[pre-order The Way Out from Temporary Residence Ltd. right here]

The Books: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

08.13 -- Solid Sound Festival -- North Adams, MA
09.04 -- ATP Music Festival -- Monticello, NY
09.29 -- The Trocadero -- Philadelphia, PA
09.30 -- 9:30 Club -- Washington, DC
10.01 -- Sheafer Theater -- Durham, NC
10.03 -- Variety Playhouse -- Atlanta, GA
10.04 -- Square Room -- Knoxville, TN
10.05 -- Jefferson Theater -- Charlottesville, VA
10.21 -- Somerville Theater -- Somerville, MA
10.22 -- Pearl Street -- Northampton, MA
10.23 -- Cabaret Mile End -- Montreal, QC
10.24 -- Capitol Music Hall -- Ottawa, ON
10.25 -- The Mod Club -- Toronto, ON
10.26 -- Crofoot Ballroom -- Pontiac, MI
10.27 -- Ladies Literary Club -- Grand Rapids, MI
10.29 -- Vic Theater -- Chicago, IL
10.30 -- Cedar Cultural Center -- Minneapolis, MN
10.30 -- Cedar Cultural Center -- Minneapolis, MN
11.13 -- Zankel Hall -- New York, NY
11.30 -- Palace of Fine Arts -- San Francisco, CA
12.03 -- Aladdin Theater -- Portland, OR
12.04 -- Moore Theatre -- Seattle, WA
12.05 -- Vogue Theater -- Vancouver, BC

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