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Experimental rock shakes the Mondavi Center

Nick Zammuto's band has moved on from the audio collages he masterminded with The Books. Zammuto will perform Sunday with Explosions in the Sky at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. Courtesy photo

By
From page A9 | April 10, 2012 |

Check it out

Who: Explosions in the Sky and Zammuto

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: $29.50; www.mondaviarts.org; (530) 754-2787

Prepare to have your mind blown and ears ringing as instrumental post-rockers Explosions in the Sky and experimental rock band Zammuto hit the town for an 8 p.m. show Sunday at the Mondavi Center.

Nick Zammuto is one-half of audio collage masterminds The Books. Along with cellist Paul de Jong, The Books created high-concept, sample-based music centered on vocal edits procured from the public domain.

“The Books were doing archeology of the recent past, looking back 15 years at VHS tapes and LPs, pulling meaning from them in a decontextualized way,” Nick Zammuto said in a recent phone call.

“Now that the Internet makes these illogical associations commonplace, you see that Books aesthetic wherever you go. It seems redundant to make a career out of it. It felt like the right time to move on and make something more direct.”

Zammuto saw everything becoming more digitized, with the physical being replaced by the virtual.

“That’s why this record had to be more live,” he said. “I wanted to return to the fundamentals of playing. Having musicians that kill live was my priority. It’s not a meta thing or a virtual thing. When you come to our show, we’re just playing.”

Fans of The Books may assume Zammuto is similarly cut and pasted together. But actually, “there aren’t a lot of backing tracks. Almost all of it is recorded live and designed to be played live.”

“The Shape of Things to Come” features an insane performance by drummer Sean Dixon.

“He plays a syncopated clave pattern double time with his right hand, while doing half time with his left,” Zammuto said. “He keeps it going throughout. He pulls stuff off I’ve never seen anybody do.”

Dixon is so into polyrhythmic drumming that he’s traveled to Africa. This tribal influence is felt throughout the album, especially on the album highlight, “F U C-3PO.”

“I always wanted to write a rock song in 5/4, it’s a really proggy thing to do,” Zammuto said. “The vocal effects on that song, and the rest of the record, are totally reproducible live. I haven’t seen it done that well before so I’m very excited to do it.”

The robotic vocal effects and digital enhancement are set against organic, live instrumentation. This juxtaposition of old and new plays through the album, giving it a unique tribal-futuristic sound.

“I love music that feels like it’s moving forwards and backwards at the same time,” he said.

The album is overflowing with different musical ideas: joyous, jam-band workouts; glitchy, skittering vocal patterns; and electro elements.

“Maybe to a fault I went into a lot of different directions,” Zammuto said. “I was really disappointed about losing The Books, but at the same time, was excited about doing new music. I tried everything. This was my chance to spread my wings and see what works.”

Zammuto brought his brother Mikey on board as bassist.

“He’s nine years younger so we didn’t have much in common growing up,” he said. “But now that we both play music, he was the obvious choice. He’s much better then I am. I consider myself more of a writer than a player. Luckily, I surround myself with real players.”

Zammuto feels much more confident singing live these days.

“I don’t feel much embarrassment. I have three kids so it’s not about me anymore. It may sound cheesy but I just have to be myself; I can’t pretend or put up a façade.”

Family is especially important at this stage in his life.

“This is very much a family business. We’re living in a house we built ourselves, growing most of our own food.”

While touring is hard on his family, it’s essential.

“The most important thing is for people to hear the music. All I ask is, if people like it, buy it, come to a show or tell other people about it.”

Tickets to Sunday’s show are $29.50; visit www.mondaviarts.org, or call (530) 754-5000 for more information.

— Reach Landon Christensen at landonissuch@hotmail.com

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