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The Scarlet & Black

Bands employ multimedia, costumes to enliven Herrick

On Halloween night the Books played an excellent, multimedia-driven show, despite a suboptimal venue and Sunday time slot. The Books, a folktronica band originally from New York City, were joined by openers Black Heart Procession in Herrick Chapel at 9 p.m. on Oct. 31. Sunday’s concert followed another brilliant show the night before in Gardner Lounge, where Bear in Heaven, Sun Airway and Lower Dens performed.

The Books
Nick from The Books plays bass during Sunday's concert in Herrick Chapel - Chris Barbey

Black Heart Procession, a rock band from San Diego, started strong but grew repetitive through their set. Pall Jenkins—vocals, guitar and musical saw—was a mummified Blues Brother for Halloween this year, and he crooned emo dirges through a face of bandages while playing haunting hooks with the saw.

While Jenkins and pianist Tobias Nathaniel performed some beautiful songs, their music grew static and kind of depressive—many pieces, especially those with guitar, sounded increasingly generic and monotonous. The large screen behind them was no more captivating, dominated by a loop of hipster retro-type photographs, most featuring clocks. All-in-all, though, Black Heart Procession created an appropriate Halloween atmosphere and some fantastic sounds due to their strong musicianship and their musical saw.

When the Books first took the stage, they spoke for awhile before beginning a song, relating a story about coming to Grinnell previously, seeing a train of syrup pass by, and realizing they were in the sweetest place in the world. Once they began playing, though, they stayed mostly silent, preferring to let their songs and videos speak for them.

The concert was well worth the wait. The Books’ music combines obscurely-sourced samples with largely acoustic instrumentation, provided by guitarist Nick Zammuto and cellist Paul de Jong. The Books made great use of the video system—their chopped-up and hilarious video clips, such as old golf instructional tapes overlaid with Batman-style exclamations, meshed perfectly with their sample-heavy music.

The Books’ body of work is difficult to pigeon-hole into a genre because it synthesizes folk instrumentals with sample-based percussion and other well-timed sonic touches. Zammuto has described their sound as “collage music” in interviews. The music is both completely unique, and undeniably pop.

Like Black Heart Procession, the Books demonstrated elegant musicianship that benefited from the acoustics of Herrick Chapel. However, several attendees said they would have preferred Gardner Lounge because of its less-formal atmosphere and infinitely higher prospects for dancing. But even with the audience confined to pews, the Books’ concert provided a stellar finale to a concert-filled weekend.

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    Elizabeth SkarieNov 7, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Emo dirges–I almost know what that means.