All Of This Happened While You Were Sleeping

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READING IS FUNDAMENTAL: The Books, First Unitarian, Last Night

evacartoon.jpgEVA SAYS: I was in New York this weekend and I couldn?t afford to get into the MoMa. It was either modern art or lunch — and I was really hung over so I picked the latter. Luckily, the nice guys in The Books — Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong — comped me a free press ticket, knowing full well what it’s like to be broke. And so, while I might have missed out on the Warhols and Calders, I did get to experience The Books live.

In a way, The Books strike me as the kind of band that belong in a museum. They?re sonic documenterarians, sound collectors going around capturing noises and images and freeze-framing them within the amber of melody. And last night at the First Unitarian was very much a voyage into the world of conceptual art. But unlike other artists such as John Zorn or Mathew Barney who also flex the boundaries of sound and imagery, the Books are a little bit more accessible than say, Zorn?s Film Works, as they haven?t completely disassociated themselves from the traditional values of folk, classical and rock.

Usually the abstract voiceovers and slo-mo breakbeats in their songs melt so naturally into their own vocals and instrumentation that it?s difficult to tell what is sampled and what is authentic. Seeing the pair in concert made it somewhat easier to dismantle their heavily layered music, but doing so only further demonstrated the intricacy of each song. Even when the layers were peeled away, the origins of the sounds was still impossible to pinpoint. At one point Zammuto compared a song to the voice of an asteroid hitting the earth.

Above the band hung a small screen which flashed images of nature, vibrating babies, toothpaste, feet and popcorn. It felt like witnessing a million stories being told at once. And if you?ve ever watched Animal Planet or Adult Swim with the TV volume down and your music up, and for a brief second thought the two mediums were playing together in perfect harmony– well, it was kind of like that only you didn?t have to be stoned. And it?s not to say that The Books are the first band to ever incorporate the two- I?ve experienced amazing multi media performances with big bands like Tool, DJ Shadow and the Gorillaz — but somehow The Books manage to do it better.

Their chosen locale was also an appropriate complement to the tone of the show. The stain glass windows, high ceiling organs and striking cobalt blue walls of the Sanctuary in the F.U. added to the dramatic, almost spiritual nature of the performance. At times, the ferocity of Tod Reynolds? (Yo Yo Ma, Bang on a Can) violin sounded as if he was conjuring up the devil, contrasting sharply with the soothing, angelic sound of Zammuto?s voice. In the end, the sold out show warranted a standing ovation from the audience filling the overstuffed pews. I ended up buying their visual DVD, which I cant exactly afford but I?ve justified it by telling myself that it?s like having the MoMa experience in my very own home.

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Found video via The Books web site.

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