(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, October 16, 2009

CD review - The Books, The Lemon of Pink (2003)

Found sound samples and music slip together to create a kind of flow out of disparate parts. The Books create an experimental, experiential sonic scape, where the listener's mindset contributes a large share. The album overwhelms with elements of aleatoric randomness (which they deny) and slight nods to Robert Fripp's Exposure and Eno & Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Many of the songs follow a loose pattern, starting with a rhythmic collection of sound samples, then intricately layering in cello, guitar or piano. Sometimes the tracks coalesce into something resembling a more normal song, at least for a little while. The result is a bit of watchwork complexity, with odd organic elements. It never becomes tedious or repetitious, though, because the sound changes from song to song and the samples shift as well.

The title track, The Lemon of Pink, lays the foundation for the album. Poetic phrases and vocalizations with a repetitive piano/guitar undertone fall into a slightly stiff, awkward rhythm. Snippets of music and spoken word/found sound flow together, but the meaning is unclear. It's like a dream after you've awakened: how can you organize and explain the pieces you remember? It's impossible.

If there is a theme for The Lemon of Pink, perhaps it's a kind of zen-like philosophy. Songs like Take Time, which starts with percussion and some foreign speech set a mood. The tone of voice sounds like storytelling, but the recurring English spoken word samples include phrases like, "That which is now has already been" and "Something is happening, which is not happening at all". The song element reminds me a bit of Feist, but it's more atonal and jerky. The video is beautiful in parts for how it creates the sense of pattern and deeper meaning.

A True Story of a Story of True Love has a sweet arpeggiated guitar that evokes Mary from Robert Fripp's Exposure. The samples of philosophical spoken word seem dissociated from the title and music, so the effect is a bit like coming out of anesthesia. The album has programmed my mood to appreciate the seeming patterns that arise.

The Lemon of Pink needs a beer like Orval, which offers a complexity of flavors. Which do you want to taste now?

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