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Music and visuals for the mind

The Books
Turner Hall
Milwaukee, WI
Nov. 29, 2009
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Review and photos by Matt Schwenke

Combining separate musical backgrounds in acoustics and electronics, Paul de Jong and Nick Zammuto of The Books together create a unique show that, along with their video installations and sampling, produces an experience that is more akin to performance art than a typical musical concert.

With candle-lit tables spread about the usually cleared dance floor at Turner Hall, The Books took to their seats on stage with a video screen behind them and a simple bank of electronics situated on a cinder block in front of them. As the two began to play, Zammuto switching between acoustic guitar and de John wielding an electric cello, the sampled beats, voices and sounds often only loosely paired with the video in a sort of stream-of-consciousness collage.

From the overt topic of hypnotherapy in "Group Therapy" and "Chain of Missing Links" to making passing references at modern societal problems in "Be Good to Them Always," the Books' weaving of audio and video maintained a humbly brilliant tone. Home video of the pair's youth stitched together in "Classy Penguin" defined that humbleness, while the intelligent lyrics in "Smells Like Content" hinted at something much more heady before concluding, "I dunno."

The show also included humorous wordplay in the video to "Meditation," which rearranged the title into, among others, "time in a dot" and "I mated on it" as the two played along, and even a sad song in "We Bought the Flood," which paired a funeral dirge sound to footage from the 1930s that a friend had collected.

Whether The Books' songs hold up on their own, without the video footage, is debatable, but when witnessing the pair together, they reach strange new heights, as in "Geese," which wove goose calls and flourishes to images of hunters and amassing birds into a Alfred Hitchcock-like spectacle of suspense.
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