When in doubt, there’s nothing like a swift kick in the junk to get someone’s attention. Either that or mention the collaboration between out-of-this-world indie-hip-hop producer Prefuse 73 – known to his mama as Scott Herren – and Tomlab Records’ prized musique concréte duo the Books. The prospects of such a project are exhilarating enough that you can probably save the testicular pain-train for another, more devious moment.
Acting somewhat as an addendum to Herren’s scattered and disappointing 2005 release, Surrounded By Silence, the Reads the Books EP builds from where “Pagina Dos” (from Surrounded) left off. Herren drops dope beats, more laid-back than his typical output, while using the Books’ warm, layered strings (banjos, cellos) as his base to structure tracks that blend the acts’ diverse styles. The project was completed as a true collaboration – a long-distance effort, with the music being sent over e-mail and through the post office.
Fans of the Books will get the most pleasure from this EP. Due to Herren’s method of clipping and chopping up his source material into a stew of briefly recognizable segments within the larger structure, tiny pieces of familiar melodies or sound samples from the Books peep through. Like an audio Where’s Waldo (I found his shoe! Can you find his cello tone?), “Pagina Seis” is the most rewarding track, featuring the opening sounds from The Lemon of Pink (2003) as well as a piece from the album’s brilliantly edited "conversation" ending, "PS."
Reads the Books is split into eight tracks, or pages – “Pagina Uno,” “Pagina Dos,” “Pagina Tres” – and clocks in at twenty-two minutes. But coming to a close after Claudia Maria Deheza’s featured vocals on “Pagina Ocho,” the EP feels more like a work in progress with aspirations of something greater than the ultimate collaborative effort that so many said this would be. With any luck, Herren and the boys in the Books will keep in touch.