Episode 22: The Books

“Smells Like Content”

SongExploder22

Before The Books broke up, they released four albums that combined composed music and found sounds. In this episode, Nick Zammuto explains how he crafted the song Smells Like Content, off of their 2005 album Lost and Safe, out of unlikely sources, like geometry, chance encounters, and a corrugated PVC pipe.

This video demonstrates how Nick Zammuto creates rhythms within the locked groove of a vinyl record:

Buy “Smells Like Content” on iTunes.

footnotes
After The Books ended, Nick Zammuto started a solo project, called Zammuto. Check out the new Zammuto record, Anchor, and read Nick’s extensive notes on the making of each track on the record on his blog.

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Baths – Failed Demos

Hi, Song Exploder fans! Will Wiesenfeld of Baths here.

Contained here are some failed demos of mine that were just going to stay hidden on my computer — Hrishi suggested I release some of them through Song Exploder and talk a bit about them, and I thought that would be a great idea! A way to show them in the right context, as incomplete or misdirected little musings. Bits of music that began as inspired ideas, but ones that I never saw all the way through.

(Note: all the weird titles are left over from the gibberish filenames I often give to projects right when I’m starting to work on them.)

1. Itorascett mix [Ossuary 0.5]

This was maybe the most fully realized idea, and I always enjoyed listening to it, but never enjoyed it enough, I guess. Dozens of separate times I thought it would have a place on the record. I thought maybe once I recorded some vocals? Even in doing that nothing ever felt quite right. I had this picture in my head of a giant gothic church made entirely of bones, and the title came into play early on… ‘Ossuary’ was the closest singular word for that image I could find. All the lyrics and melodies for the song Ossuary on Obsidian were originally written for this one, but once I carried them over to different music, I more or less abandoned this track. It’s just been sitting on my computer ever since,

2. Eireloria [Meek]

This was a little dulcimer segment that I tried laying down over some other rhythms, but I always liked the sound of it all by itself. In the end it was the same feeling with the previous track: that I liked it, but not enough to warrant putting it out as something official. I think I was thinking of Castlevania while working on this? That, and very specifically I was remembering the first half of Beauty and the Beast— Belle is more or less alone when she first ventures into the mansion, and the atmosphere around her is very sinister and mysterious, but sort of elegant too?¿ I dunno. Dulcimer vibes :)

3. Ogeinzeldo

I don’t know what this was really. I think I wanted to make a ‘slow club track’ that, according to a note I found on my phone, sounded like “being inside a dog’s bowels”? I was listening to a lot of Emptyset and Andy Stott at the time.
I think some of the ideas were cool, but I remember that I hated the little clicky high hat bits I added in the second half, and never got around to editing it any further.

4. Qissorom3 mix

This is the song I like the most out of these demos. I couldn’t find a vocal subject matter or melody that I liked enough, and after so many tries, my interest in the song sorta faded. The first half was super Dntel-inspired, and honestly I think that fact was too obvious, which was part of the reason I never wanted to put this out.
I started out with the idea of making a song that moved from a more complex rhythm into a second half that was far more dumbed down, through a sort of fake-out crossfade. I definitely managed to pull that off, but I never LOVED the resulting track. Nice enough idea though.

5. ArdyrnNew [Black Henna]

I collected a TON of audio samples during the recording process for obsidian, breaking apart fresh heads of lettuce (Ironworks), dropping large stones into the dirt and mashing them together (Incompatible), as well as a bunch of glass/glassware samples… This little thing is the only result I got from the glass samples, which I found much less inspiring to work with. I think maybe If I had focused on writing better music around the initial rhythm, maybe I would’ve taken it much further, BUT ALAS.

6. ACTUAL Ybs4 mix

I can’t remember what these sounds were sourced from, I think it was maybe a bunch of wooden stuff? I think I was consistently listening to the Jonsi and Alex album ‘Riceboy Sleeps’ (and I still do) and was obsessed with the soundscape in the last track ‘Sleeping Giant’. It left so many beautiful images in my head. I wanted to do like, a more intense version of something like that, and force a more rigid musical refrain through it? Kind of like the sonic equivalent to a small wooden footbridge in the mist built through impossibly rocky terrain. There are some interesting sounds, and I like the piano / pad bits in the background, but all the separate pieces never congealed properly. Honestly, listening to it now, my favorite bit is when all the rhythm cuts out entirely at 3:05, and the music is left to ride out the track to the end. If I were to still work on it, I think my next move would be to take ALL the rhythms out and see what the remaining piano music was asking me to do.

My favorite bit of advice in making music is that there are no real failures, only practice. Recognizing when you are working towards a dead end and becoming comfortable with moving on from uninspired ideas is an extremely powerful asset. It makes the good stuff that much better <3

Hope this was as fun to read as it was for me to write!
Will

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