The Way Out
Trying to explain the music of the Books to someone is like trying to catch smoke; there’s a tangible essence, but just when you think you can get hold of it, it curls into a wisp of something else. This is the New York-based duo’s fourth full-length album, and they stay the course with acoustic and electronic instruments, manipulation and sampling, and found recordings (from Mahatma Gandhi to lovelorn phone messages and self-help therapy tropes). Creating music from collage and sampling — and from real instruments — takes skill; falling into the trap of kitsch, or consistently forcing the dark underbelly of our souls out into the open is too easy, and too predictable. While the cruelty of children (“A Cold Freezin’ Night”) and the alienation of lovers (“Thirty Incoming”) are not exactly fluffy topics made for dancing, the tracks are designed to allow us to feel both amusement and guilt (for eavesdropping); the genteel folk of “Free Translator” and the soothing, meditative pastiches of the “Autogenics” tracks are both mesmerizing and questioning. The Way Out is one of the Books’ finest, most beguiling, musical page-turners.