One of the reasons The Books were such a great group was that they created music that was wildly unique and experimental, yet still immediate, fun, and, for the most part, accessible. And while it may be a bit unfair to immediately compare Nick Zammuto's new self-titled project, Zammuto, to his old band, it's worth noting that he brings that same talent for creating simultaneously interesting and exciting music to this new album, also titled Zammuto.

This should already be obvious, though, to anyone who's heard Zammuto's opening track, which dropped nearly a year ago in mid-2011. Simply and appropriately titled 'YAY,' it's the perfect example of the kind of fantastic musicianship that Nick Zammuto has specialized in over the course of his career. The song centers around a wordless vocal that's been excruciatingly sliced up and edited into a skittery, frenetic rhythm. The skippy, glitchy effect this has is strange and alien, but also very vibrant and cathartic. It's a really great trick, and it gives the track a kind of novelty that it wouldn't otherwise have.

But another, just as important part of The Books' success was that they knew how to use a novelty - whether it be the use of found sounds or any of their mind-bending production tricks - without letting it turn into a gimmick. And luckily, Zammuto keeps that tradition alive as well. The vocal editing on 'YAY' might be the track's focal point, but it also features hard-hitting drums, and a great, keyboard-driven arrangement that builds into a bombastic climax. And, while the song's unique spin is what immediately grabs attention, it's the attention to detail that really makes it the exultant piece of music that it is.

Zammuto maintains these strengths throughout the duration of their debut. The experimentation here never feels like it's carrying the music on its own or becoming a crutch for lazy arrangement. Tracks like 'Groan Man, Don't Cry' and 'The Shape Of Things To Come' are so full of sounds and nuance, in fact, that it takes some serious concentration to even pick out the individual pieces from the whole. The looped groove on 'Too Late To Topologize,' modulates and warps rather than just stagnantly repeating. 'Zebra Butt', which features a Microsoft Sam-like computer voice edited to rap over a hip hop inflected beat, is pretty easily the most attention-demanding thing on here, and not just for its crazy central idea. The instrumental itself is packed with more extraneous sounds, percussion, and synthesizers than any other track on the album. For a song who's punchline would've been nearly as effective, albeit less interesting, paired with a trite drum loop, building it instead into a behemoth jam is a really admirable touch, even if the finished product might be seem absurdly over-the-top to some listeners.

But, even though comparisons can be made to Nick Zammuto's previous work, Zammuto is pretty clearly a new project. Gone, for example, is the focus on found sounds and samples; nobody is going to throw 'sound collage' anywhere near this album. The biggest changes come with his transition to a full-band set-up. More than maybe anything, this record feels focused on rhythmic grooves. A lot of the appeal of a track like 'Groan Man, Don't Cry' is just listening to it build from its funky, syncopated beginning into a much more straightforward beat during its chorus. The middle of the album especially has a lot of forward momentum, with tracks like 'F U C-3PO' and 'Zebra Butt' providing some really driving beats. These grooves are often really fleshed out with the use of live drumming and percussion, a feature that was always conspicuously absent from The Books' music.

This record also features Zammuto's singing a lot more than his previous work, although if fans are expecting to hear the kind of clear, naturalistic singing that they heard on tracks like 'All You Need Is A Wall', they might be slightly disappointed. Zammuto's vocals are processed and manipulated in some way on nearly every song here. It sounds, at first, as if he keeps using the same vocoder type effect on his vocals for nearly every song on here. But on closer listen, you can tell that Zammuto is using widely different effects to morph his vocals, from the shifting tremolo of 'Harlequin' to the straight auto-tune of 'Too Late To Topologize'. Still, while the intended effect might have been to give each vocal its own character, they all, on the surface at least, tend to blend together into one vocal sound. I don't think that this approach necessarily takes away from any of the tracks in particular, but many fans may find it a bit too homogenous.

Really though, the most rewarding part of listening to Nick Zammuto in this new context is hearing him try his hand at some genuine, unadulterated songwriting. The more sparse, traditional songs, like 'Idiom Wind', 'Full Fading', and especially the epic 'Harlequin', end up being some of the most captivating of the lot. And that's because, while these tracks still showcase Zammuto's ear for sound, they also give us a chance to hear a side of his musicianship that we haven't been treated to before. And that's really Zammuto's greatest strength as an album: it takes the work of a truly visionary musician and re-contextualizes it into a different genre, all while retaining the qualities that made him such a celebrated sonic auteur in the first place.