Patchwork projects — albums that try to blend every possible genre and instrument into one package — tend to be trying listens, regardless of whether they're good or not. Those that succeed in this endeavour provide a huge payoff, though; thankfully, this is the case with Paul de Jong's first solo outing.
Whereas former band mate Nick Zammuto has done much to distance himself from the sound they established together as beloved alt-pop duo the Books, de Jong instead embraces his former act's idiosyncrasies and fully develops their brand of self-described "collage music." Every song is in itself an exercise, with very little in common between them, other than de Jong's signature cello. Incorporating his love of vocal samples, he manages to loop them in ways that, while not necessarily inviting, are profoundly evocative.
Opener "Auction Block" starts as an almost traditional Irish jig, until an electronic pattern mimicking spoons builds into a vocal sample that is chopped and reassembled to mimic the cadence of an auctioneer. The gears quickly shift on the following "Hollywald," which starts off with an unassuming guitar strum, accompanied by another repetitive vocal sample, before the integration of bongo drums that are then blended with layers of de Jong's cello playing. The title track, meanwhile, is a stripped-back affair, with soft, syncopated drum patterns that comprise one of the album's best cuts.
Paul de Jong's solo project deserves to be explored and enjoyed as its own entity, but acts as a de facto successor to the Books, and manages to push the limits of the duo's previous outputs. It's weird, confusing, at times hilarious and thought provoking. Its more classical and straightforward back end closes the debut in a soft and enchanting manner, prompting you to want to return to the earlier experimental cuts and revisit the whole album all over again. (Temporary Residence)