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"The Way Out"

The Books – The Way Out
13 August 2010, 10:00 Written by John Brainlove
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“Welcome to a new beginning, for this tape will serve you as a new beginning. That’s right, a new beginning; for we’re about ready to begin.”

The Books are a band that inhabit a genre of their own. Weaving together an intoxicating tapestry of electronic and acoustic sound, their songs are overlaid with passages and fragments of found sound and spoken word. Disparate sentences and non-sequiturs form an often surreal narrative of thoughts and imagery.

“Your body is now a glass container.”

Album opener ‘Group Autogenics’ features a selection of clips from spoken word meditation tapes. Different “guides” use different imagery and different tones, queering the supposedly relaxing effect of the spliced monologues. The effect is disorientating and amusing; background music this certainly isn’t.

“You may possibly just detect from my voice that I am Irish; and now, I leap forward in time.”

In ‘Thirty Incoming’, a dial tone is folded into the mixture, harmonising, feeding back and resurfacing as various fragments of personal conversations and answerphone messages burble throughout. The track picks up pace and intensity, and suddenly the mind is opened to the vast amount of human communication going on all over the world at every moment. It’s not unusual for The Books to provoke this kind of thought; their music has a uniquely stimulating effect.

“I am calm and calm, I am relaxed and relaxed. I am a loop that goes round and round in your head.”

‘A Chain Of Missing Links’ continues the theme of self-help type philosophy, the narrator encouraging contemplation and relaxation. It’s hard to tell whether we’re supposed to engage with the overtly soothing intent of the voice-over, or to be amused by the platitudes and odd, conflicting statements it contains. The Way Out may be an audio rumination on escapism and fantasy, in which case, you can make your own mind up on the intent.

“Put the key in the lock, unlock the door, and the fountain of youth is available.”

It’s more electronic and less melody based than their past work, perhaps. But every new Books release feels like an important addition to a body of work best considered as a whole. This is “art music”, intellectual and intensely creative; a hypnotic, expansive, multi-faceted record that challenges the listener to step up and engage. From this deeply talented duo, we should expect nothing less.

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