April 3, 2012

Review: Zammuto - Zammuto

Nick Zammuto leads a simple, peaceful life somewhere hidden away in Vermont with his wife and kids. That's where he runs his merch shop, where all of the architecture is built by him and his wife, where The Books last and final album The Way Out was recorded, and where he spends most of his days. One can only imagine that this is also where he keeps his mouth-watering vinyl collection, from which he draws his famous samples. On this album however, he depends less on sample-usage, and more on his own vocals. But that's not the only thing that's vastly different about Zammuto.

The thing that struck me immediately was the way it opened. Throughout The Books' career, they made a point of not using drums in their sound, and instead used vinyl pops amplified by pvc pipes, guitar cuts, or a cello bow hitting its strings. But instead of avoiding this again, the album opens with a set of bombastic drums, which I thought was pretty funny. The exuberant "YAY" continues with Zammuto's signature boyish vocals, which are hard to recognize at first, due to the fact that they're chopped up to the extreme. It's either something that you'll instantly dig, or that will instantly put you off.

All of the tracks here are distinctly different from each other, which applies for most Books records. On Zammuto however, almost each track introduces a different vocal effect. But instead of smothering the simplistic charm of his voice as you would expect, it makes the songs a lot more enjoyable. On "F U C-3PO" for example, the lower-harmonizing effect on his voice adds a whole new texture to an already incredible song. The overwhelming use of auto-tune on "Too Late to Topologize" didn't have me sold at first, but I got used to it, and it's actually one of my favorite tracks. Other fantastic tracks include "Idiom Wind", with its dramatic string section, which goes sinister towards the end, and the equally-dramatic "The Shape of Things to Come". Even the 37-second "Crabbing" is captivating, though the concept is simple; a sample of a man from a 40s or 50s movie, but with the pitch of his dialogue edited to fit a sort-of honky-tonk piano melody of the same era. I'm still not sure how I feel about "Zebra Butt", the most bizarre track on the record, but it sure is catchy as hell.

This is an album full of life, packed with wacky sounds, catchy syncopation, and oddly-satisfying experimentation that I can only assume is the product of bottled-up boredom in an isolated home in rural Vermont. Zammuto is a pleasant surprise, unexpectedly risen from the ashes of a once-great project. There's no telling where this guy is going next, but I'm sure it'll be just as great.


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