Books on Tape

Sings the Blues

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Listening to a Books on Tape album is a bit like watching an old detective series. You know all the clichés: the cars, the girls, the guns, and the attitudes. Yet every time one of those features pops up on the screen, you can't help but smile and be glad they're still there. Not to say that Todd Matthew Drootin uses the same tricks over and over, but he does get into that zone where you are not surprised when he tries to surprise you. And that's just perfect. Kid 606 does something similar, but with a cynicism that makes your teeth grind. Sings the Blues is instead a labor of good-humored pranskterism and double-dare dance tunes. No source is sacred: Drootin plunders everything from electronica to rock & roll, not to mention free jazz -- who's that saxophone in "The Crucial" that is looped into an insisting leitmotiv? The technique is crudely basic: sample unrelated tunes, loop, and reconstruct them into pieces that will run around like baby Frankenstein monsters -- they bump into each other, put themselves back together, and start running again in a different direction. The melody is constantly cheerful, simplistic, irresistible. In fact, you could say that Books on Tape is the missing link between Kid 606 and Felix Kubin. Highlights include "Republic Of," "She's Dead to Me," the spooky "Frisson," and the aforementioned "The Crucial." It's all good, chopped-up, jerky, yet very sleek fun.

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