The split of NYC musical collagists The Books earlier this year felt timely, if only in the current climate of The Worsening, in which creativity is underfunded and trampled underfoot. A band that spent thirteen years glitching around at the outer perimeter of pop music is calling it quits? Yeah, that makes sense right now. We’re all fucked anyway.

Thankfully, Nick Zammuto’s self-titled new project largely picks up where the last left off. That opener! ‘Yay’ – like the stirringest Books songs, e.g. ‘Tokyo’ or ‘That Right Ain’t Shit’ – throws light everywhere. Drums skitter and twitch in a Battles-gone-jazz rhythm and the vocal line arcs out in rapid, clipped bursts, like the rainbow-water from a sprinkler.

What’s different with the new band is a sense of fixity. Goofy repurposed samples are still thrown around here and there – but the babbling-brook organs on ‘Groan Man, Don’t Cry’ and the low, chiming guitar on ‘Harlequin’, exude the confidence of sounds existing in their first context. It sounds, well – more band-like. Denser. Bolder. All except for those vocals, which are comparatively meek under layers of digital lacquer.

Ah, the vocals, yes. Well, where the lyrics are intelligible, they’re almost… passive-aggressive? ‘Idiom Wind’ chides its subject in vague metaphors ("you’re an idiom babe / twisting in the wind / remember when you used to take the bit between your teeth"); in ‘F U C-3PO’ the spitting singer would rather lose their house than "smell your ac-e-tone" (tell me more, says the psychoanalyst). In the aforementioned ‘Zebra Butt’, a robotic female voice intones: "I have it planned to the last man / while you’re sitting there / acting like a horse’s ass."

Great chagrin amid the pretty noises. Also, great mention of arses. I do not know what this means.

Better to mine Zammuto‘s musical depths than its semantics – because while nothing quite meets the precedent set by the first track, the album is a bracing adventure in texture. Like Efterklang, Múm and other such Scandinavians, Zammuto arrays warm organic notes in the ambitious battle formations of electronica. ‘Shape Of Things to Come’ even features "Sean Dixon on drums […] playing a 6/8 clave pattern double time with his right hand and halftime with his left." Make no mistake – those are mad skills, and mad skills are our weapons against The Worsening. Onward!

Zammuto is available to stream in full here, arguably rendering this review redundant. At least this way you’ll notice the arse thing.

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