For all their eclecticism and all their mixmanship, electronic duo Paul de Jong and Nick Zammuto, a.k.a. the Books, elude the label ‘DJs’. The schizophrenic sonic adventure of their new album The Way Out evokes images of dusty crates of forgotten media and mad sound engineers doing experiments on inscrutable metal interfaces, but neither looks so familiar as they do emanating from contemporary hip hop classics like J Dilla’s Donuts or DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… The samples feel different. They often land in the mix with a strange intensity, as though they carry the weight of their history a bit more conspicuously. And why shouldn’t they? The Way Out includes sounds and voices from sources as mundane as weight loss and self-help tapes.
Something more, however, than the stamp of unmitigated obscurity makes the Books’ samples distinctive, a quality magnified, though far from originated, on the new album. They are more assertive than the subjugated, ambient sounds of albums like the KLF’s Chill Out, more cohesive than the disruptive noises of outrageous producers like Lee Perry, and more purposeful than the exotic experiments of dissonant noise groups. They don’t contribute to a pastiche of styles or lend a flavoring of genre. Nor are they meant solely to illustrate a point or explain a lyric. The Books’ samples, which include everything from bits and pieces of everyday noise to extended recordings of Hebrew stenography, are somehow more essential and more secondary at the same time—used for their own sake to create something utterly unrelated.