Since collage pop duo the Books disbanded in 2012, Paul de Jong hasn't been as prolific as his former bandmate Nick Zammuto, who since released two albums with his band Zammuto. IF, de Jong's solo debut, retains the duo's usage of found-sound audio, usually spoken word samples, combined with original instrumentation, in a manner similar to Steve Reich pieces such as "Different Trains." The samples are deftly edited along with glitchy beats and acoustic instrumentation, particularly guitars, piano, cello, fiddle, and percussion. Right off the bat, this album reestablishes the Books' off-kilter sense of humor with "Auction Block," a song based on cut-up samples of an auctioneer, mangling his already rapid-fire speech into something truly tongue-twisted. This sort of electronically deconstructed country music is reminiscent of Wide Open Spaces, the phenomenal 2003 collaboration between People Like Us, Wobbly, and Matmos, which similarly repurposed country & western for the plunderphonic era. "This Is Who I Am" goes even further, sampling a television preacher exclaiming "You made a fool out of me!" and "I curse the day you ever made me!," with his voice processed just enough to make it sound demonic. This keeps in line with the playful, slightly devilish, and sometimes outright hilarious sense of humor best demonstrated on Books tracks such as "A Cold Freezin' Night." The album's title track features what could have been left alone as a pretty new age piano melody, but then develops involved beat patterns, over which an intensely edited, glitched-out violin solo is performed. After it ends, a sampled voice exclaims "wow!" followed by laughter, audibly expressing the excitement that creating such boundary-pushing music brings to de Jong. The album's second half doesn't rely on silly soundbites as much, letting the instrumentation breathe more, and "Age of the Sea" is almost devoid of samples and editing, coming closer to the orchestral chamber post-rock of Rachel's with its slow, subdued cello and acoustic guitars. The album's closing piece, the two-minute "Troia," sounds like it could have been sourced from a cleaned-up century-old 78-rpm recording of an Appalachian fiddle musician. The album impressively demonstrates de Jong's accomplished musicianship as well has impeccable knack for sound design and mischievous sense of humor, although fans of the Books might miss Zammuto's pop melodicism and vocals.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson