For a band that succinctly categorizes its record label as “unknown indie” on MySpace, The Books’s set at the equally unknown and indie St. Louis venue, The Luminary Center for the Arts, fit as snugly as its patrons’ cardigans. Having opened its doors in late 2007, The Luminary welcomed guests into a minimalist gallery space on Sunday, September 20th for its second “Elevator Music Series” concert featuring Lymbyc Systym and The Books.
As a majority of the guests hunkered down on the floor in quiet anticipation, Brooklyn’s instrumental duo, Lymbyc Systym – here accompanied by an electric violinist – launched into a set marked by one epic sonic tidal wave after another. Their dizzying melodic swells recalled those of Explosions In The Sky, and the soothing drone of it all only opened the floodgates for The Books’s ensuing performance.
Though The Books’ instrumental creativity stands eye-to-eye with Lymbyc Systym’s, the projected footage swirling New Age TV hosts’ heads that opened their show immediately signaled another variety of performance altogether. Almost invisible while crouched on the ground in front of the screen, The Books – Nick Zammuto on acoustic guitar and vocals and Paul de Jong on electric cello – remained relatively inconspicuous throughout the show. Zammuto announced that they would be playing some new material, beginning the set without any hesitation. Thankfully, the audience quickly caught on to alternating images of children toting guns and “shake ya’ booty” slogans – in whatever way one can possibly “catch on to” these things – and the recording of a boy threatening “I’ll kill you, asshole” suddenly became less terrifying.
It was then that this bizarre introduction started to seem like nothing more than harmless shock value, opening the audience’s minds up to the band’s experimentation and greasing the wheels for the sights and sounds to follow. Whether recorded or performed live, Zammuto’s warm vocals and de Jong’s resonant strings never tire. Played in conjunction with otherwise mundane cultural footage, though, videos of two men practicing duck calls became profound and the anagrams of “meditation” – “I’d mate on it” – hilarious.
And, considering how objectively re-reading this review makes The Books’ performance seem better suited for remedial learning than musical dexterity, perhaps there’s a reason they’re still classified as “unknown indie” after a decade of playing together. But, if that’s what it takes to spend a night sitting Indian style while chuckling at fat kids eating watermelon and enjoying The Books’ delicate experimental music, then maybe it’s better to keep it that way.