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Bird Noise - Desert Jelly
CD Album 2013 | Silber 120
11 tracks, 37 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (320 kbps, ~87 megs))
Listen to the track Dunebuggy
US project ELECTRIC BIRD NOISE has been around for a good 15 years now, initially a band project but in later years more or less the creative vehicle of composer and instrumentalist Brian Lea McKenzie if I have understood their history correct. “Desert Jelly” is the latest studio album issued by this project, and was released through US label Silber Records in 2013.
The accompanying press blurb for this album states that the main inspirations for this production were some of the leading new age bands from 30 years ago: New Order, Gary Numan and Duran Duran were mentioned. Alongside a description as accessible material. Which, perhaps, might be true. At least some of those descriptions fits to some extent.
The songs on this album can basically be divided into four different types. The odd one out on the album is called, phew, Burned by the Sands Fire and Scars Alone I Wait Counting the Stars. This is a slow, dark, menacing affair that applies the mood and atmosphere of early Gary Numan in an industrial oriented framework, with a haunting synth solo on top and mumbled lead vocals hovering a few feet under the ground or something. A purebred, bleak dystopian affair, the sound of a future world pressed down by the sins of multiple generations of abusers. At least as far as general mood is concerned. Sombre beauty is a description that fits this one perfectly, if you enjoy such brooding atmospheres at least.
The compositions Carnegiea Gigantea as well as The Theme From Impationly Yours should fit right at home with fans of New Order. The former a dirtier and grittier take on their sound due to the bass first and foremost, the latter a more smooth and elegant affair with a nifty layered synth solo build up as the song concludes.
Title track Desert Jelly as well as Pants And Sake Take The Neighborhood can best be described as ambient electronic excursions. Well made ones at that too I might add, and both of them with fairly different excursions into this universe. The former exotic in a wind synth and desert sounds kind of way, the latter in a more eerie and arguably futuristic one.
The remaining six tracks all revolve in part or in full around a tight bass and drums foundation, of the kind that invites associations towards the likes of New Order as well as good, old Hawkwind. For the most intense ones Killing Joke should be an appropriate name-drop too I imagine. The additional parts of the arrangements are made up by synth textures that should sound familiar to fans of Gary Numan, Hawkwind (again) and Ozric Tentacles, liberally flavored with cosmic effects that should strike home with fans of the latter two. Very well made and enticing affairs all of them, and with a touch of Krautrock at times too. With the short, energetic and concise creation I Come From The Earth as my personal highlight with it’s dramatic siren sounds and dark, spoken vocals.
Electric Bird Noise is a band that in it’s 2013 incarnation should find favor amongst a fairly broad audience I surmise, as the music is easy to enjoy on several levels. But a key audience should be those who have albums by New Order, Gary Numan and Hawkwind side by side in their collection: I can’t really imagine that those who fits that description wouldn’t treasure this album.
~ Olav Martin Bjørnsen, House of Prog
Electric Bird Noise is headed up by South Carolina musician Brian Lea McKenzie, who I first reviewed way back in 1999 when Aural Innovations was still a printed mag. Well Brian is still at it, and as I re-read my earlier reviews it seems Electric Bird Noise was originally a band, though it’s now a McKenzie solo project, with vocals on two tracks by Silber Records label honcho Brian John Mitchell (BJM), who readers might recognize from his own projects, Remora and Small Life Form.
Desert Jelly incorporates elements of Space Rock, Krautrock and early 80s Post-Punk and Synth Pop to create a varied set of 11 tracks that are simultaneously modern and retro. The album opens with Dunebuggy, which got me thinking of Can with classic Prog keyboards and spaced out alien synths. It’s dark and intense, with a Krautrocking Teutonic feel. Peter Hook is next and I’m guessing the Peter Hook of the title is the bassist from Joy Division and New Order; indeed the song has a distinct early 80s melodic sound, though Brian injects heavy intensity into the music, and like the opening track it’s nicely embellished with space electronics. This segues smoothly into the title track, which pulls back into a quiet, left-to-right channel pulsating drone wave for starts, soon joined by additional pleasant electro-soundscape patterns and melodic guitar (or keyboard?). It’s all very peaceful and then BAM!!…. we’re smacked full in the chops by the blazing space-punk of the appropriately titled I Miss Those Hardcore Kids. As The Glitter Glows begins as a whimsically melodic electronic piece, then launches into another early 80s styled tune that includes a motorik rhythmic pulse and space electronics. This is one damn good catchy tune! Welcome To Static Beach features swirling flying saucer sounds and whirring 50s sci-fi film styled effects for the first couple minutes, and then kicks into a dark, droning atmospheric rocker. Continuing the sci-fi flick motif, I Come From The Earth would make a great soundtrack theme song. It’s got a cool combination of tribal percussion, multiple soaring electronics, and BJM repeating the line, “I Come From The Earth”. Returning to the 80s influences, Carnegiea Gigantea is a pleasant, melodic, hook-laden 80s styled electo-pop tune but with the spaced out edge that characterizes the rest of the album. Pants And Sake Take The Neighborhood is a peaceful melodic soundscapes piece. The Theme From Impationly Yours is a deep space Kraftwerkian synth-pop tune with BJM on vocals. And I love the high intensity chaos-in-space of the closing track, Burned By The Sands Fire And Scars Alone I Wait Counting The Stars.
Well I gotta say this is hands down the best Electric Bird Noise album I’ve heard yet. In some ways its a celebration of the early 80s, though Brian puts his own stamp on the music and, of course, I love the way he sends it all hurling into space.
For more information visit the Silber Records web site at: http://www.silbermedia.com
~ Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations
Previously known for droning and electrified fields of guitar distortion, Brian Lea McKenzie, under the moniker Electric Bird Noise, flips expectations and has instead crafted an album of synthesizer-led songs that are primed for appearances on the dancefloor. "Desert Jelly," much like a new wave version of something Dan Friel or Dan Deacon might create, uses thudding drum machines and bubbling electronic textures to arrive at arpeggiator-riddled pop songs that are colorful and exuberant. Though the energy can at times be manic, Electric Bird Noise smartly allows the album to slow to quiet, simmering soundscapes before accelerating to frenetic, beat-driven madness heard vividly on “I Miss Those Hardcore Kids."
~ Ryan Potts, Experimedia
Electric Bird Noise strikes back with a new –and announced as a different album. Brian Lea McKenzie is known for his guitar manipulated work where he often mixed experimental music and psychedelic influences. “Desert Jelly” has a different goal entering the wide fields of electronic manipulations.
The debut remains pretty rock-inspired, but the electronic treatments are immediately noticeable. Exploring the “Desert Jelly” I was taken by the multiple electronic experiments, which sometimes are reminding me of the good-old 80s experiments. The vintage electro style is noticeable on the quite Kraftwerk-sounding “Pants And Sake Take The Neighborhood”, but also on “The Theme From Impatiently Yours” and “Burned By The Sands Fire And Scars Alone I Wait Counting The Stars”.
Electric Noise Birds composed some easy, but efficient electro tunes while other songs move on the edge of pure experimentalism. A few tracks have been joined by some vocal parts by guest singer Brian John Mitchell (Remora and owner of Silber Records). The vocals are quite rudimentary, but adding these little bonus songs is sometimes that is needed.
A few songs are totally weird as well. I especially refer to “I Miss Those Hardcore Kids”, which next to a furious rhythmic hardcore part also moves into quieter electro effects. No doubt about it, Electric Bird Noise remains a total guarantee for surprising sounds and songs.
New Order is among the best bands of all time. I say that with the conviction and certainty of a long time fan, and I'm sure that many of you would agree with me. And if "Desert Jelly" is any indication, I'm quite certain that Electric Bird Noise feel the same way as I do. "Desert Jelly" is an album filled with bombastic hooks and subtle nuance that brilliantly capture the spirit and essence of New Order, while simultaneously creating something of their own that's both contemporary and vital.
Opener "Dunebuggy" is big and brassy and filled with bass, a groove large enough to drive, well, a dunebuggy through it, but it's the second track "Peter Hook" where the album really hits it's stride. Playing homage to the leader of Revenge and Monaco, it's a loving tribute to the man that made those bands so great, a track that recalls the best moments of both those projects without diving into the obvious cliche of a bass solo. "Carnegiea Gigantea" brings to mind "1963", only revved up a little to perhaps 1965 or 1968, and if there was a little more guitar I'd swear it was a lost b-side from "Technique". Elsewhere on the album Electric Bird Noise do an excellent job of creating an aural environment that builds and grows over the course of the album's songs, blending manic energy, suburban bedroom dance beats, jangly guitar, Numan-esque vocals, and some sweet analog synths to create the perfect soundtrack for an unfilmed John Hughes movie. And really, what better compliment is there than that? "Desert Jelly" comes highly recommended, and I encourage you to seek it out for yourself...
~ Ping Things
Electric Bird Noise is Brian Lea McKenzie...an intriguing fellow who has been in the business of writing and recording puzzling underground music for the past fifteen years. Desert Jelly is a bit of a departure in terms of sounds and styles, as the album offers a more conventional approach...with many of the songs having more of an accessible pop feel. But this is not a sell out venture, nothing could be further from the truth. McKenzie's songs remain vibrant and inspired. True to the claim of the accompanying press release, these songs recall classic artists from the past like New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Brian Eno, and Todd Rundgren. Another interesting twist here is the fact that three of the tracks feature lead vocals courtesy of Brian John Mitchell (Remora). Mesmerizing underground pop music with a decidedly experimental slant. Eleven mind-bending tracks here including "Dunebuggy," "As the Glitter Glows," "I Come From The Earth," "Carnegiea Gigantea," and "The Theme From Impatiently Yours." Top pick.
Electric Bird Noise gets strange. The title alone should indicate such a strange trip. Mixing the obvious assumption with a slight misspelling ‘Desert Jelly’ offers a bizarre trip through noise, nostalgia, and new wave. Aspects of the album are completely habit-forming. Some of these songs will get stuck in the head. What’s best is how the closer to pop Electric Bird Noise gets, the better the album succeeds. More conventional does not mean a basic, simple song. Rather conventional is a loosely defined term referring to at least some aspect of pop sensibilities. That means melody. That also means noise and ‘Desert Jelly’ gets loud, really loud at times.
‘dunebuggy’ begins with a stomp. The whole song is a riff played over and over again. Honestly this works wonders. Introducing the album with a sense of fun is good as it gives the listener some idea of what they are about to explore. ‘peter hook’ is one of the memorable tracks on the album. Beginning off quite slowly it builds and blasts off. A few songs have split personalities like ‘welcome to static beach’ which might as well be two entirely separate tracks. What’s nice about ‘welcome to static beach’ is the underlying sense of hope under the shaggy dog like riff around the 2 and a half minute mark.
Towards the end Electric Bird Noise explore more ‘dance-inspired’ pieces like the twee ‘carnegiea gigantea’ and glo-fi ‘the theme from impatiently yours’. Desert Jelly is an eclectic mix done right.
~ Beach Sloth
Electric Bird Noise has developed a reputation for a guitar-driven, experimental and atmospheric sound. But on the band’s latest album, Desert Jelly, which Silber Records released a couple of weeks ago, the band defies expectations with an album devoted to synths and New Wave.
“Dune Buggy” is the first track off the new album and in some way it reminds me a little bit of prog rock and a bit of a band like the Big Sleep. In any case, the track has a muscular buzzing, almost drone-like funk — it’s not a typical funk you’d expect but it comes from weird angles.
~ William Ruben Helms, The Joy of Violent Movement
The project is an 11-song mix showcasing McKenzie’s more than capable multi-instrumental talents and songwriting craft. “Desert Jelly,” McKenzie’s eighth Electric Bird Noise CD, features the use of the Prophet T8 synthesizer, and additional analog instruments. At times reminiscent of Todd Rundgren’s 1970s-era experimental rock, as well as 80s influences (ala Depeche Mode, and others), “Desert Jelly” will be ear candy to fans of creative instrumental multi-tracking mixing old school sounds with modern sensibilities.