The Books - Thought For Food
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The Books
Thought For Food

This is one of those little gems of an album that will unfortunately slip by most people. Arriving on the smaller (but definitely upcoming) Tomlab label out of Germany, the disc is part sound-collage, part electro-acoustic, and just plain fun all around. The duo of Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong mix acoustic guitars, found sound samples, stringed instruments, programmed beats, and all kinds of other little digital tricks for a disc that breathes an uncommon amount of life with a human touch. It's one of those releases that sounds like kind of a mess when explained (keep that in mind), but is actually quite refreshing and fun.

For a prime example, one need look no further than the first track of "Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again," Opening with a simple guitar melody, the track layers on sound samples from different sporting events (golf and tennis) in a rather clever way, while adding another layer of manipulated guitar. Eventually, a couple other samples come into the mix (one of a lady blathering on and on about something) before the whole track speeds up and slams into a pretty segment with cut-up guitars and violin. See, I told you it sounds like a complete mess, but even after repeated listening it somehow holds together.

Part of the reason the disc is successful is that the group allows the tracks to breathe on their own. Things aren't piled on so thickly that you can't distinguish one element from another, and that actually works to their advantage as they turn vocal phrases into musical elements and digitally manipulate the real instruments in just the right ways to fill in the gaps. "All Bad Ends All" is a jaunty little track with another simple guitar melody that is layered with little clicks, samples of glasses tinkling, kids giggling, and people talking. Again, it sounds like it wouldn't work, but it's toe-tapping every damn time it comes on.

While it may not seem like it at first (simply because their sources come from so many different places), one of the definite knacks of the group is choosing samples that have a spontinaety to them. "All Our Base Are Belong To Them" (turning around a well-worn internet joke phrase) mixes in samples of people laughing and talking, as well as backyard animal life, but the plucky little guitar melody and singing (one of the only tracks on the disc with it) all flows together so nicely that every time a sample of a woman laughing rolls around, I find a smile coming to my face. On a more melancholy side of things "Motherless Bastard" begins with an absolutely odd sample of a bit of dialogue between a little girl and her father(?) before flowing into easily the most stirring track on the disc.

Strictly musically speaking, nothing too complicated is going on within any of the tracks, but it's the combination of everything that creates a satisfying whole. Sure, there are tracks on the disc that simply don't work as well as others (the two short album closing tracks of "A Dead Fish Gains The Power Of Observation" and "Deaf Kids" contain little of the subtlety and excellence that the previous 10 do), but that's a minor nitpick with an otherwise unique disc. I'll be honest in that it probably isn't for everyone, but as mentioned above, there's something about Thought For Food that's refreshing and simply feels more natural than most records making use of heavy digital manipulation. There now, hopefully that made some sense.

rating: 810
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00