Paul de Jong, formerly of The Books, releases his very first solo record, and IF is an excellent piece of work. de Jong combines all manner of unusual samples from here and there into curious and catchy wholes, underlaid by his gorgeous string-playing. Fun and lovely, released by the Temporary Residence label.
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Paul de Jong, sonic prankster to the stars, was one of those guys who confused us in the Books, an act revelling in the accidental rhythm of things people said when they thought we weren’t looking. Now the duo have gone their separate ways, and while Nick Zammuto’s record has carved out its own niche -- chilled, warped sounds, delicately converted into pop songs -- de Jong is revelling in the band’s pastiching of old. Here, he uses strings, samples and beats together for something of an art dance record.
Paul de Jong’s strings are frantic and rush through the urgent words of “Auction Block”, making for a track that moves so fast it feels like it’s glitched, combining all its forces as if it were in Dan Deacon’s wonderland. The record continues throwing out samples that are often silly and otherwise emotive (and sometimes both, as in the cries of “I curse the day you ever made me!” from “This Is Who I Am”). At moments, he tempers himself and slows down, but even then the record is shuffling, itching to get back in on the action: title track “IF” rumbles with brushed percussion and forlorn violins, climaxing with the gusto of an Andrew Bird jazz instrumental.
For what it is -- a collection of danceable experiments -- ‘If’ perhaps plays out for too long, where it could be cut down to size and lose some of the songs that lean towards Books archiving (take “Baxter @73”, which feels like it’s taken on too many ideas and seems subservient to ambient soundscaping). Ultimately, though, this is the kind of observant fun Paul de Jong made fly back in his band’s heyday; you don’t know where all these words and sounds are coming from, but together they sound like they’re falling into a group hug.
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