On The Books’ Throughly Disquieting (Yes!) New Song, “A Cold Freezin’ Night”


For some among us, the announcement of a new album by NYC surrealist field researchers/electronic-music duo the Books immediately trumps most anything on the release docket. Their triptych of LPs so far is pretty stunning, if you like to vibe to alternately glitched-out and gorgeous folk/musique concrete that often feels sourced from a vintage condenser mic shoved into UbuWeb’s archives. Its been five years since Lost and Safe, a tepid echo of the fractured majesty of their first two records–it’s high time to come back and freak me out, guys.

Um, they’ve done it.

The first MP3 to circulate from the forthcoming The Way Out, “Beautiful People,” is a cryptic callback to first-wave psychedelia, with chilly harmonized vocals beseeching us to do various things, and backmasked murmurs suggesting we do others. But “A Cold Freezin’ Night,” which hit the web yesterday, is something more terrifyingly wonderful altogether. What sounds like an argument between a brother and sister–most likely supervised through one-way glass by a child psychiatrist–oscillates quickly with a jittery acoustic guitar and woodpecker drumming, giving the piece the aura of a Merrie Melodies fever dream or source material for the Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatrist.”

But its the “lyrics” that throw everything fully into delirious Dada-nightmare overdrive: There’s nothing too crazy about a girl saying she wants to be a boy, but the boy’s comments veer from the titular exhortation to “I wanna blow your brains out” to “I can kill you with a rifle, a shotgun, any way I want to” and then the full-on 36 Chambers threat-level of “cutting your toes off and working my way up.” The prize finds of the duo’s sourcing mission for The Way Out were hypnotherapy tapes and found recordings from Talkboy toys, about which Books member Paul De Jong told Pitchfork, “When kids start having a handle on language, they take it farther than anybody else. Just extreme cruelty.” I can’t think of a better pull-quote for a press release.