The Books broke up earlier this year. For over 10 years, the duo made up of guitarist Nick Zammuto and cellist Paul de Jong crafted their own unique style of collage and folktronica music that was both challenging and incredibly satisfying.
As sad as it was to hear that such an excellent group is now dissolved, it was a relief to know that the band would not tarnish their near perfect record and with their last record entitled “The Way Out,” it just made sense.
Enter Zammuto, the new project helmed by Nick himself. He brought his brand of strange electronic and experimental rock to U Street Music Hall on Sept. 26.
On the self-titled record released earlier this year, every song is composed with the utmost precision and care. And yet, each track is imbued with a characteristically playful attitude, making it an incredibly joyful listen. Live, Zammuto makes the songs glow with energy.
Zammuto and his band, made up of childhood friends and his brother, breezed through each song with a technical skill and “togetherness” that classically trained jazz quartets would envy.
There was a strange humor in the performance coming not only from the band — who seemed legitimately pleased to be there — but also from the projector that displayed video perfectly in sync with the performance. It displayed a strange collection of videos, both nightmarish and fun, which included: footage of finger skateboarding; advertisements for long forgotten and wholly useless products; zebra butts (appropriately played during the song “Zebra Butt”); medical diagrams of erections; Christmas tree fires; a clip of Zammuto’s cousin being kicked out of a professional soccer match; and what can only be described as the world’s greatest autoharp solo to the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
No encore was expected from this show; the band had already played through all the songs from the record. Nevertheless, they returned after being beckoned by the crowd to play through covers of both Neil Young and The Books.
It was a solemn conclusion to an otherwise upbeat and frenetic performance. And yet it was entirely appropriate, a sort of reprise to performances of The Books which will never happen again.
There’s a sorrow in knowing The Books will never be witnessed in live again. But with the joy of Zammuto, there is simply nothing to be sad about.