tUnE-yArDs debut album BiRd-BrAiNs, written in that ghastly mix of uppercase and lowercase like the calling card of so many millions of kids trying to be cool on internet forums and blogs, is a tour de force in home recording.
It seems fitting that this album first did the rounds for a year and a half as a cassette and vinyl release through Marriage Records, before being remastered and released on CD this November by 4AD. I feel like I should be listening to this album from the tape-deck of a boom box Athens than from an iPod dock, but it’s pretty easy to close my eyes and make-believe that’s just what I’m doing, given that the whole record is absolutely lo-fi.
The name behind this DIY delight is Merrill Garbus, who I can assume two things of: firstly, she’s obviously very creative, and secondly, she must have a heck of a lot of patience for her art. To collect such a range of sounds with a digital recorder – the sounds range from everything from tribal beats to ukulele and a child’s laughter – and then piece and layer them together with such intricate care, well that really is quite remarkable. The end result is absolutely advantaged – not just the screwball mess that you might expect – and yes, above all else, it is music.
In one moment your mind is transfixed by the tribal mantras of “Hatari”, then you leap from this African pop to “Jumping Jack” which is like some kind of children’s nursery rhyme-cum-nightmare. Elsewhere the brilliantly warped Jamaican – with a melody punctuated by a child’s cough and a power tool – seems ready made as the soundtrack to some offbeat indie short or a Judderman-style TV advert.
This is the kind of music that I can imagine becoming the background ambience in hip independent coffee shop’s the world over. This weird collection of sound is as relaxing as it is arresting. I’d recommend this for your collection for kicking-back on a Sunday (perhaps for inspiration before heading off to go hook-up with your local drum circle), or simply load this onto your isolation pod for sensory immersion journeys on public transport.
© Brian Banks