Google-proof of name; but once you discover them, their harmonious beauty will take you somewhere more peaceful.
Shadows is available at:
Their E.P. Ophelia is available at:
DIVERSIFICATION and location are two themes that I have explored...
in some considerable depth recently. It has played on my mind, and I have tried to rationalise and explain the reasons behind the types of music in various locations. For a few months I have taken receipt of different acts and bands; each of whom proffer something unique and varied. As the sounds tumble forth and I read up on the associated act, I am always surprised by the conclusions I reach. At the moment, there is a growing evidence to suggest that the best and brightest talent are to found the further north you travel. Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Scotland even, have all produced a great deal of bustling and exciting acts, which has lead me to this conclusion. If anything the likes of Manchester are producing too many acts that are too close to existing bands, in terms of their sound, but there is an overriding realisation: diversity is huge. It was the '90s that we experienced the last real surge and wave of diversified talent. Yesterday I went into depth at the array of wonderful sounds that we took from that decade: britpop, dance, Grunge etc.; and felt that it surpassed the 1960s, in terms of the quantity of quality and variation that was to evident. In 2013, we are tasked with a more depressing truth: that range we once heard over 10 years ago, will probably never be felt again- not even close, to my mind. Not to say that this decade promises little gold. If you search hard enough there is plenty of interesting moods and sounds to be found. Away from the top names of the established order, a great deal of fervent and ambitious new talent are plying their trade and offering up some tantalising sounds. The south of England, as well as Ireland are playing host to some great pop and folk: that varies and at its best, is offering up potential future geniuses (Kiran Leonard). Up towards the north of England, is where the most wide-ranging noises are happening. Influences from the west coast of the U.S., as well as Europe are being incorporated. Sunnier Californian climbs are parenting breezy and blissful pop and melodic music: reminiscent of the '60s and '70s best examples. European nations such as Sweden and France are also doing their utmost to bring sunshine to our stereos, and is something that the U.K.'s best new talent are getting in on. In a time where there is still a majorities vote with regards to electric force and rock and indie tones, it is invigorating and a fresh air breath to the scene: much-needed considering the hostile weather and political landscapes we are subjected to.
Hailing from Liverpool; a city hardly slacking when it comes to producing top notch acts, Bird are a name that will intrigue. In spite of the fact that it is near-impossible to locate them via Google (without some rather deft search terms); once you do locate them, it will be difficult to extricate your thoughts and ears from their music. Adele Emmas, Sian Williams and Alexis Samata are our trio of winged guardians, and have been making- as The Guardian calls it- "forcefully blissful" sounds for over a year now. Their 2012 E.P. Shadows garnered a great deal of praise, respect and adulation: arriving at it did at a time where their unique brand of song was- and is now- rarely experienced. BBC Radio, from 3 through to 6, have featured Bird and helped to elevate the trio, and inspire about a brand new E.P. Ophelia. Music publications and broadsheets alike have all been forthcoming with regards to praising the band, and their atmospheric and dark shades have captured a public consciousness, and has seen their fan base climb ever upwards. It is the combination of sonic components; from tribal drums through to haunting vocals that has meant that the three-piece have seen themselves tasked with a busy next few months. It is hard when trying to draw direct comparisons, as their sound has a quality that is rarely heard of today, and from a historical standpoint, there have been few similar acts. In a way their tones and evocations have a sense of something otherworldly, and definitely fills a need in a growing void in the music market. Their new E.P. was produced by Bill Ryder-Jones, guitarist with The Coral- a band whom have a stellar reputation for presenting twisted and distorted sounds, with magical results. What the future holds for Bird is down to them: whether they choose to make a full-length album, or further E.P.s, but demand is high at the moment, and the band are going to have many options when deciding what they want to do next. For all the guitar bands, short-lived acts, and new talent that play it safe when looking into their creative war chest, Bird are a trio whom have a tangible and universal reliability, yet take their sounds beyond what you would expect; infusing their songs with a sense of etherealness and spirituality.
When looking at a track to review, in order to get across what I am expressing, Shadows seemed like a pertinent choice. It is from their Shadows E.P. (released in August of last year), and displays all of the trio's hallmarks and standards. Opening up with a powerful and passionate wordless vocal; one which begins fairly low-pitched and measured, before changing direction and projecting a higher pitched- backed by a hypnotic guitar arpeggio. The guitar takes centre stage, slows its pace slightly, and gracefully floats and strums. The arrival of a subtle percussive background heralds the arrival of the vocal, which spares no time in making an impact and getting into your head. Our heroine has a voice that has a uniqueness to it; imbued as it is with soothing colours, as well as darker edges. The lyrics initially point to personal demons, as well as doubts: "In my dreams/I feel I'm always sinking". There is a little hint of Kate Bush's majesty, as well as Elizabeth Fraser's haunting vocals, but have familiar hints and are never too similar. Ghostly atmospheres are presented in the backdrop: summoning up chilling undertones, as the vocal tells the story. Our protagonist's focus of attention, and unnamed subject "walks in the shadows"; amidst a tide of sinking ships. At once the mood is evocative and tender. To my ears a lot of the stranger and dissonant eeriness is reminiscent of Radiohead's work during The King of Limbs. One can detect a comparable quality and sense of mood and majesty. If the strings and percussion remind you of Radiohead, then the layered vocal harmonies that arrive take your mind away from Yorke and co. Further reminders that our hero walks in the shadows is bolstered by a calming vocal backing: similar in nature to The Cocteau Twins at their best. When Adele's central vocal rises and rises, it hits a pin sharp high; eliciting shivers as well as an ethereal cry. In the way that the vocals play and echo with one another adds an extra layer of texture to the mood, and words about "The creatures of the night" give teeth and danger to an already-fraught scene. Bird are not a group who are contended to rest and be predictable. When tales of creatures of the night are told, a chorusing of "On the moon" is sung; swaying and swelling and bursting with high and low notes; hypnotic and eerie in its projection. Guitar work is subtle but atmospheric; parts Leonard Cohen, circa Songs of Love and Hate; part Pink Moon Nick Drake. Vocally, when the middling to high notes are sung there are shades of Hounds of Love Kate Bush. It is an unusual combination and one that elevates the trio's beauty; that mix of darker strings and celestial vocals has quite an effect. You can vividly imagine what is being sung of in the song: everything is imaginable, as much as (sometimes) you'd rather not. Scenes of campfires, tribal rituals and strange things in the night mingle, unleashing a heady and intoxicating scent. Our heroine speaks of ivy crawling up her skin, and whether there is a deeper meaning behind the lyrics: a troubled dream, metaphorical relevance, or based around some inner personal turmoil, it is unsure; but in the same way that Kate Bush so often presented similarly-strange scenes, Bird do likewise- it is something that should be done more in modern music. Adele's voice has range and a wild edge to it, but never seems too eccentric or over-the-top: everything is controlled and tight- even during the most enflamed moments. Sian balances Adele's voice perfectly adding smokier tones to counteract the soprano bursts. It is when the vocals combine with one another that some of the song's best and most spine-tingling moments occur. Guitar and bass work is especially impressive: the former unravels avalanches, rolls and showers of sound, whilst the latter keeps everything taut, tight and a tad menacing. Lex's percussive mandates are powerful and potent, yet keep calm: keeps the track's backbone straight and true. Glorious folk and pop edges from the '70s, mingle with modern-day sparks, to infuse the song with a multitude of strengths. If you find yourself unfamiliar with some of the influential touches: Bush-cum-Cohen-via-Cocteau Twins; then do not fear, as the way these artists are incorporated within the track add great weight to it. The tracks themes about wild beasts, moonlight scenes and a man who walks in shadows may seem unfamiliar topics, and are a much-needed tonic. Too much current emphasis is placed on love-gone-wrong, as well as dislocated emotions and street scenes. By employing something more mythical and original, the song sticks out before a single note is sung.
Bird are a three-piece whom are relatively new to my ears. I have heard whispers and praise spoken about them, but never sat down to investigate their music further. In the modern climate there is still an over-reliance to stick to what has come before. Commercialism and market forces negotiate and dictate a lot of what is reviewed and promoted. Aside from the soulless and mindless plastic pop crap- away from the established acts- there is a huge reliance still on guitar bands and their ilk. There will not be a diversity and opening up of the marketplace if more people are not willing to be embracing and adventurous. Bird are a trio that will be a bigger name in the next year, and the fact that they have won huge support from so many radio stations and publications, proves that their music speaks to a lot of people. Their previous E.P. Shadows proved how good they are, and laid out their intentions. Ophelia continues where Shadows left off, and expands upon its palette. Those sweet and intoxicating harmonies, dark and heady moods, and potent lyrics, mix with unweathering and atmospheric guitars and bass, and sharp and taut percussion. It is an E.P. well worth seeking out, and shows the same strengths and wonders that Shadows does. Over the next year or so, I hope there is a greater mobility and movement away from a some-what homogenous scene- maybe a return to something akin to the '90s. I won't cheapen the mood by making any bird puns or flight similes and metaphors; but it is true that there will be a lot of fresh ears willing to welcome their intriguing sounds. Too tempting is it to be narrow with ambition and sound, and not venture out into the open and be more explorative. Take a listen to the Liverpool 3-piece, and see where the likes of N.M.E. and BBC Radio are coming from...
AS they a rare species indeed.