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The Books 

The Lemon of Pink

Wednesday, Dec 24 2003
Whether on paper or in music, snipping things out and piecing them back together can make for incoherent final products. Collage artists of the skillful variety, Dutch cellist Paul de Jong and New York- based visual artist Nick Zammuto, aka the Books, have assembled a bevy of sounds -- from clattering cuckoo clocks to swelling applause -- in making their richly layered sophomore effort, the artful The Lemon of Pink. Using real-world noise as rhythmic and narrative elements, the album draws comparisons more to the tuneful subtleties of organic-electronic artists Four Tet and Múm, and less so to the jarring splices of Matmos.

The vocal samples on The Lemon of Pink appear in least five languages, often serving more for texture than content. Brief spoken interludes link the compositions: In "Bonanza" a grainy-voiced old man recites everyday Dutch phrases; "Explanation Mark" is a string of repeated vowel sounds; the tender "PS" splices the giggly interjections of nervous lovers. Each of these tracks would seem irksome if longer, but at 30 seconds they're fascinating.

Where the album soars is during songs like "S Is for Everysing," in which delicate bells pulse under bits of captured conversation and swirling strings, or in "Tokyo"'s evocation of world travel, with its bits of airline deplaning announcements and noisy street chatter. These moments in which the sounds pile on -- in which each vocal sample tumbles rhythmically into the next as bowed strings provide momentum beneath -- are the points where the Books really glow. The music careens, and you come along for the ride.

The album is not without ragged seams, as in the jumpy rhythms of "Take Time" and the too-overt sample of Albert Einstein discussing Gandhi's tactics of nonviolence in "There Is No There." But the lovely interplays of The Lemon of Pink outshine its gluey edges. As with any well-assembled collage, there is much here to ponder and delight.

About The Author

Elly Karl


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