"Mommy? Daddy?" cries a confused little girl over a sea of chatter. No matter how many times I listen to the Books' "Motherless Bastard," those first few words will always manage to stir a dreadful anxiety about what's to come. "You have no mother or father!" retorts a steely, reluctant voice. "Don't touch me! Don't call me that in public!"

That disembodied conversation between a newly orphaned child and her mysteriously deadbeat dad, lifted purportedly from an exchange in front of the jellyfish tanks at the Aquarium of the Pacific, almost sickens as it is transplanted into its new context—the introduction to an uplifting guitar and cello melody. Juxtaposition, irony, and an obsession with the human voice—these are the notorious fingerprints of the Books.

"The more you record, the more stuff like that you get," explains Nick Zammuto, guitarist, found-sound archivist, and one half of the Books. Through three albums, and an EP of French elevator music, Zammuto and classically trained cellist Paul de Jong have won over a cult following of indie-pop enthusiasts. By fusing an extensive library of found sound and original field recordings with gentle melodies and complex song structures, the duo has carved a new genre-niche somewhere between the folktronica of múm and the musique concrète of Pierre Schaeffer.

Zammuto describes the Books' songwriting technique as a manipulation of chaos. "You never know how things will interact until you see them interact," he states. Their pastoral, electronic sound shifts emphasis between compositional elements from song to song. The group may build one song on a particular sample, as in "Motherless Bastard," while another may be structured around Zammuto's singing and strumming, as in "All Our Base Are Belong to Them," both from their first album, Thought for Food.

"In the beginning of a composition, it's all just playing around. It could be a melody or rhythm, or tempo even," Zammuto explains. "We put together a body of sound that works together in some way and throw out what doesn't work."

On another Thought for Food track, "Read, Eat, Sleep," the Books utilize a sample that suggests a possible aleatoric process in their songwriting, a method of composition popularized by French composer Pierre Boulez that leaves the development of a song up to chance or improvisation.

But as de Jong refutes, the techniques they use to create their music are quite the opposite. He says that a good part of their drafting and sketching of a song might involve randomness, maybe in the quest for found sound or the interaction between sample and instrumentation. But the end product, de Jong says, is a result of rigorous methods. "Something emerges out of the experimentation; then it becomes a technique. There's not much left up to chance operation in the later stages of the composition," he explains.

For rare insight into the duo's attitudes toward found sound, seek out the internet radio broadcast that de Jong and Zammuto did last year for www.dublab.com. The hour-long mélange features snippets of a zealous preacher trying to sell God, Laurie Anderson's "O Superman," the idiosyncratic scatting of Shooby Taylor, "Take Time" from the Books' The Lemon of Pink, "Contempt" from Thought for Food, and a slew of obscure found sound, old-timey music, and international folk.

The samples selected for the broadcast reveal the duo's fondness for purely tonal and rhythmic vocalization, essentially vocal expression without the use of formal language. "It's a beautiful thing, somebody who apart from language has the courage to express themselves through vocalization," de Jong says.

This is best illustrated in the duo's shared love for the misunderstood Shooby Taylor, whose infamous use of unusual sounds and syllables in his scatting once had him booed off the Apollo stage. "Shooby was the guy we really met over," Zammuto states. "Paul and I are not very outward people, and to hear him hold nothing back, it's very inspiring."

Nick and Paul return to Seattle with full video accompaniment, culled in much the same way they've accumulated their library of found sound. Perhaps it's fitting that these theory-loving musicians locate their return within the walls of academia rather than the concert hall.