Friday, 16 October 2015

Art of the Cover - Paul de Jong's "IF" (2015)

A lovely cover adorns this fine debut solo album by Paul de Jong - formerly one half of acclaimed leftfield duo The Books.

IF was released via Temporary Residence.

De Jong was the cofounder, cellist and resident found sound savant of that  much beloved, sadly defunct, collage-pop duo.

Back in 2012, the Books split up after releasing - to much acclaim - their final album, The Way Out, in 2010. In 2012, their output was collected on the wonderful box set A Dot in Time.... check links below.

Five years after the Books' final album, de Jong finally (after some notable collaborative projects) delivers his first solo album, IF.

And, here, he unabashedly embraces and refines The Books’ unique sound.

IF sets the Books' early albums (particularly The Lemon of Pink) as a starting point, and elevates that beguiling sense of wonder and amazement to genuinely transcendent new heights. De Jong's ability to find the musical in the mundane has always been uncanny — it is part of what made the Books so magical – and that gift is what makes IF such a marvelous curiosity, and such a true pleasure to hear.

In de Jongʼs world, everything around him is a potential instrument: his mind-bogglingly vast collection of forgotten private press regional folk records, spoken-word oddities of indeterminate origin unearthed in discarded thrift store piles, and various everyday household utensils that we tend to take for granted. One manʼs trash is de Jongʼs tool to craft yet another treasure.

Album opener “Auction Block” situates the listener in the countryside at dusk, complete with crickets chirping, as the sound of a fiddle and piano slowly emerges in the distance. Soon, we’re in the middle of a square dance, with de Jong reeling off vocal samples until they replicate the machine-gun patter of an auctioneer.

From there, de Jong continues to play with vocal samples and acoustic strings at dizzying speeds, continuing The Books’ early themes.

And, while he can still make miniature tornadoes of sound that somehow retain all their detail — as in the climax of “This Is Who I Am” — IF best stands apart from his previous work when de Jong peels away the layers so as to allow in more space.

Featuring a handful of friends and family as musical guests, IF steers a course from joyously eccentric folk-pop to humorously inside-out jazz, resulting in a refreshing piece of outsider art with a replay value that's off the charts.


01 Auction Block
02 Hollywald
03 This Is Who I Am
04 IF
05 Golden Gate
06 Debt Free
07 Baxter @ 73
08 Snakes
09 Age of the Sea
10 Purpose
11 The Art of What
12 Troia

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