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Great Albums You May Have Missed: The Books' Lost and Safe (2005)

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The image of a cobweb on the front of The Books' Lost and Safe is indicative, as their unique brand of creating random sound collages often reminds me of exploring an old, deserted house, stumbling upon the relics of a remnant past.

Aged pictures hang cracked and fading on the walls, more intriguing because they were left behind, forgotten; the creaking of the stairs and the sounds of what was once a thriving house: running water, kids laughing, clanging dishes, the sounds of wind, and footsteps on a wooden floor. 'A Little Longing Goes Away.'

Old House, N.Y., 1849, 45th Street, Near 5th Avenue.,Old house, New York, 1849, Forty-fifth Street near Fifth Avenue., Digital ID 809836, New York Public LibraryKitchen with stove, sink and utensils., Digital ID 1583570, New York Public LibraryBut behind the quietness floating above these sounds, the house is musical. There is a banjo leaning on the wall of the back porch, made rusty and weary by the sun and rain; an old, neglected piano, covered with dust and the tyranny of time.

The Mather Dynasty, Mather Tomb, Copp's Hill Burying Ground, Boston, Digital ID 100028, New York Public LibraryOr is it just the spirit of a music made long ago that permeated the air; a still present vibration that has been fading and fading for the last hundred years? The Books put a microphone right to the wood in this house; and magically, they re-animate it, bringing the dead to life again. They are sound-archeologists; unearthing a picture of how things used to sound, how things still sound if you stop and listen. 'If Not Now, Whenever'[Engraved tea pot - Engraved platter.], Digital ID 1166215, New York Public LibraryBut the house did not simply exist in one moment in time, it existed through time: through the eras of butter churns and washboards, house calls from doctors and fist-pounding ministers, telephones and steam trains, automobiles and radios.

Lovers conce but strangers now. [first line of chorus],Lovers once but strangers now, or, Strangers now but lovers once / song and chorus by Miss Laura Jean Libby ; music by Alfred G. Robyn.,Fond lovers once but strangers now. [first line], Digital ID 1152872, New York Public LibraryYes, all the sounds are here. And to their credit, The Books make little effort to separate and classify each distinct noise-artifact: no dating by examining the supposed age of each vibration, no placement in time as each sound Dopplers further into the past. 'It Never Changes to Stop.' Reverberations simply wash into, through, and over each other; creating new pictures, new sounds and songs.

Model X - drive side., Digital ID 1163574, New York Public LibraryThe Books make this unoccupied house into a museum, and they are the invisible curators; occasionally they will put the artifacts into frames and cases to draw our attention to them; but the second we turn around, the cases are gone again. Their process creates beauty where we never noticed it to be before; just like when a photograph becomes old and cracked it somehow becomes more profound and poetic.

Music., Digital ID 832500, New York Public LibraryIt reminds us the creation of beauty doesn't always have to be intentional; that seemingly random patterns can sometimes hint at the mystery of the universe; and that from the atoms in our bodies to the orbits of Jupiter's moons, complimentary resonances exist that are there to shield us from the infinity of unbridled chaos. Without The Books, we would be in danger of forgetting, or worse, never noticing. 'Be Good To Them Always.'

 Plenty Payne, Billy July, Ben July, Dembo Factor (civilian clothes), Ben Wilson (back row), John July, William Shields; John Jefferson, Informant, January 1889., Digital ID 1103288, New York Public Library"Most of all the world is a place where parts of wholes are described / within an overarching paradigm of clarity and accuracy / the context of which makes possible an underlying / sense of the way it all fits together / despite our collective tendancy not to conceive of it as such... So instead we went ahead to fabricate a catalog / of unstable elements and modicums and particles / with non-zero total strangeness for brief moments which amount / to nothing more than tiny fragments of a finger snap." -The Books, "Smells Like Content," from Lost and Safe (2005).
 

NYPL CATALOG LINKS:

The Books - Lost and Safe (2005)

The Books - The Lemon of Pink (2003) 

To Preview many of the great tracks on the this album, click on the song titles found in quotes in the text above, or click the links below:

"An Owl With Knees" video

"Take Time" video

"Tokyo" video

Please Note: online audio links are provided for previewing purposes only. They are compressed and do not match CD-quality audio tracks. DON'T SETTLE for compressed tracks! Get the CD! 

[Petite femme tenant un sceau au bord d'un puits.], Digital ID 1212114, New York Public Library

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