WILDBIRDS & PEACEDRUMS
The Leaf Label Ltd
Now here’s something very different and ideal for JLTT, as the likes of Simon Cowell would jump on the dump button rather than listen properly.
This album presents a series of percussion-based vocal excursions of differing textures. You won’t find keyboard forays and guitars snarling through this material, the topline is almost entirely made up from vocal arrangements.
‘Ghosts & Pains’ has echoey percussion ringing in a declamatory vocal over a tropical shuffle. A neat chorale blends joy and mystery and yes, it sure is catchy. It all sound like a score for a dramatic dance piece …maybe it is ?? For me, the arrangement is a tad too minimal, but you cannot doubt that smart minds are at work here.
‘The Offbeat’ features a talking drum then a snare-heavy martial beat, solemn singing that has echoes of the great Miriam Makeba and a philosophical lyric. The vocal arrangement is clever and the polyrhythmic fire would not be out of place on the fabulous Chairmen of the Board swansong album ‘Skin I’m In’. ‘Gold Digger’ is set to dark hiphop tempo and an impassioned female singer stalks the number, touching on struggle. With jazzy poetic phrasing and an eerie bridge to boot.
‘Mind Blues’ has a startling wordless ensemble vocal that again evokes an dance interpretation, suitably lit. Curious percussion sounds abound and an edgy beat has confusion raging through it. Too stark for me, but then I can’t look at ‘The Scream’ for long !
The saturnine rhythm of ‘Who I Was’ has a Badhu feel and ‘lost’ lyric..so theatrical and what a powerful voice…
An urgent tempo and reverbed chorale on ‘Soft Wind, Soft Death’ again has a relentless motion ; a more conversational vocal on ‘The Unreal vs The Real’ with a cymbal wash and an overall voodoo atmosphere.
The most successful cut arrives in the form of ‘Keep Some Hope’ – a crisp drum pattern and electronic claps offset a poetic lyric to great effect. But almost as inspired is ‘Everything, All The Time’ with its bustling drum intro nodding to the great Blue Note label jazz meisterworks and adding conga, it all sound unsettling and moody but so purposeful, almost like a ritual soundtrack, quirky vocal overlaid with whispering…
Listening to this album is like a walk through a starkly lit art gallery. It’s a monochrome listen for sure, but very original. Whilst I miss warmer instrumentation, adding any would probably detract from the artists’ intention. This is what it is.. and it’s quite an achievement