All over the world, bands and musicians toil away in practice spaces of various shapes and sizes, working to construct songs. In most cases, these artists strive to create music that expresses some sort of emotion, or is meant to provoke a similar response in its listeners. It’s a safe bet that a lot of these bands have it off a lot harder as long as the Books are still around. Not because of any stunning technical proficiency or mainstream fame, but in the way that the New York-based duo of Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong is able to inhabit several dualities, The Way Out being the most recent example of this skill. To put it briefly: They have the ability to make a coherent album out of 14 stunningly different tracks, the skill to wring emotion out of a genre of music that some might dismiss as pieced together and robotic, and the finesse to make an album that required barrels of effort seem as easy as banging out three chords for an hour straight.
The variation in their self-described “collage music” might be a little confusing for longtime fans at first, but at no point do their experiments seem overreaching or unnecesary. Besides, they’ve been warning about the all-over-the-place nature of this album over on their official blog for a while now, saying it’s something that just kind of had to happen. If anything, it provides for that many more exciting moments. “A Cold Freezin’ Night” features an at times unsettling back and forth between two children, culled from thrift store-bought Talkboy tapes and laid over a bed of frantic IDM beats and bass tones. Elsewhere, “I Didn’t Know That” shows listeners what happens when you feed a soul album into a calculator, mixing samples of a male vocalist with what seems like downright gibberish.
“Thirty Incoming” marks a welcome return for de Jong’s cello work, rides a series of hypnotic grooves, and ratchets up the heartbreak factor considerably by including a voicemail message from a lonely but grateful man. There are four songs on The Way Out that feature live, unsampled vocals, and they manage to give the album a needed jolt of human energy that keeps things from drowning in electronic disconnect. “We Bought The Flood” is the slow-moving highlight, featuring slow-motion guitar parts and clockwork-sounding percussion.
On their previously mentioned blog, the band members go in-depth explaining how some of the songs on this album were made. It’s part of the final duality that makes The Way Out a success: learning how it was constructed is fascinating, but it’s equally enthralling to go into it completely ignorant. Even without the constant samples of hypnotherapy tapes that pop up, the Books have delivered an absolutely entrancing album that continues the upward trend of their previous releases. If it takes them another four years to crank out another release, so be it. People will still probably be trying to figure this one out.