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Books on Tape, Throw Down Your Laptops (Deathbomb Arc)
As a clever, smirky title, Throw Down Your Laptops is great stuff; as a manifesto for electronic music, though, it leaves a lot to be desired. Music made with machines is music made with machines, after all, so why turn up your nose at the most sophisticated tools available for getting the job done? Nonetheless, Todd Drootin, a.k.a. Todd Books, the mad knob twiddler behind Books on Tape, has indeed eschewed digital technology in the creation of this album, using all-analog keyboards, samplers and sequencers, plus the occasional guest guitarists, drummers, bassists and vocalists, to perform his tracks live in the studio. The results are mixed at best. Books' obsessively low-fi ditties sound both rawer and more mechanical than most electronic music, as if a bunch of robots got together and tried to make a punk rock record. Occasionally, this results in some cool cut-and-paste exercises that recall everything from Art of Noise ("Smart on TV") to Squarepusher ("Hey Typical"). More often, however, the tracks here are as soulless as the album’s high-concept title would suggest; an attempt to rough up the intellectual pretenses of IDM and glitchcore that winds up being even more hyper-intellectual than the genres it seeks to subvert. The standout track is the wittily titled "Offend Your Fan Base", which playfully undercuts its own hypnotically ambient synth drones with restlessly mutating beats and trippy vocal loops, plus a great live vocal from Stefanie Drootin (Todd's wife?). This song, which probably really will offend fans of Books’ usual experimental bombast, reminds you of what the rest of the album ultimately lacks: a sense of fun.