click here if you are having troubles navigating on our site
|Electric Bird Noise
- Kind of Black
CD Album 2014 | Silber 151
11 tracks, 43 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (320 kbps, ~81 megs))
: Press Release
: Digital Booklet
: Listen to the album on Spotify
Electric Bird Noise’s follow up to last year’s Desert Jelly could not be more different from its predecessor. Whereas Desert Jelly was a varied set of Space Rock, Krautrock and early 80s Post-Punk and Synth-Pop, Kind Of Black consists of 11 solo guitar ruminations and soundscapes, or what Electric Bird Noise, which is South Carolina based musician Brian Lea McKenzie, refers to as “elevator music for art galleries”.
Most of the pieces are brief, in the 3 minute range, with track titles consecutively numbered – One, Two, Three, and so on. Tracks 1-8 seem to follow a theme of mostly pure solo guitar. The album opens with minimal patterns which are melodic and pleasingly dissonant. There’s a cinematic feeling of tension, conjuring up images in my mind of a Cabinet of Dr Caligari or some similar silent film soundtrack. This theme continues for the first few tracks before becoming dreamily surreal. Six continues though we start to hear what sounds like spacey Gothic synths accompanying the guitar. But this may be all guitar, as only guitar is listed in the credits. Seven returns to the feel of the first few tracks, but later gets wildly intense and eerily and lysergically surreal. Eight reminds me of Belgian guitarist Roger Trigaux, like a stripped down ethereal take on his guitar style (which I’m sure is unintended on McKenzie’s part).
The remaining tracks consist of spaced out soundscape explorations. Nine starts off dark and subtly sparse, suggesting cold, black space, but it’s also got trippy Psych guitar colorings too, soon developing into a swirling cosmic vortextual mass. At over 7 minutes this is the longest track of the set. Ten continues this theme. Eleven really does sound like synths and guitar, but I’m quite clueless when it comes to the technical aspects of instruments and always marvel at what can be accomplished. It’s pure sound exploration, with incessant pulsations, drawn out whining that sounds like cosmic whales singing, spacey horn blasts, and acidic feedback licks.
In summary, it took me a few listens to warm up to Kind Of Black, probably because Desert Jelly was still fresh in my mind. But I’ve heard enough Electric Bird Noise over many years to know that one should always expect the unexpected from McKenzie, and in terms of image inducing, aural canvas guitar meditations, Kind Of Black is an enjoyable, and perhaps even challenging listen.
~ Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations
Kind of Black creates weird lonesome images of the guitar. Over the course of the collection Electric Bird Noise manages to explore the guitar from every possible angle. At times the techniques used recall recording methods from long ago. In fact much of the album has a nostalgic sheen that is painted over it. With such intense focus on a single instrument as heard through plenty of filters, pedals, and other effects it has a peculiarly individualistic take on what a single instrument can do with minimal accompaniment.
“one” reflects on the guitar purely. Twanging about it has a hesitant feeling behind it. Underneath that is a rumbling that comes from the constant warbling. A sci-fi vibe takes over on “two” especially towards the end. For much of the first half of the album there appears to be a focus on shorter more pop accessible lengths. Hence much of it has at least a blurred melodic structure behind it. “seven” begins to move Electric Bird Noise towards larger pieces letting this one walk across uneasily. “nine” is by far the highlight of the album. Opting for alien terrain it is an incredibly dark uncomfortable piece. After minutes of setting the mood Electric Bird dives headfirst into unsettling industrial pastures. For the closer “eleven” Electric Bird Noise takes a drone-inflected sound and allows it to explode at the very end.
Dusty sounding and downright anxious at times Kind of Black is a unique album that sounds like little else.
~ Beach Sloth
Another puzzling, hypnotic release from Electric Bird Noise. Brian Lea McKenzie is one of those cool guys out there who makes music because that's what he enjoys doing...rather than being motivated by possible fortune and fame. So it's no wonder that he's a perfect fit for the eclectic roster on the Silber label. If you've never heard Electric Bird Noise before well...the band name will give you at least some indication of what to expect. McKenzie writes and records experimental music that is at least to some degree melodic...but not in the traditional sense. Listening to this album, we can't help but be reminded of some of the more bizarre musical segments presented on Brian Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain (it's probably those slightly warped sounding instruments that make it seem as if something is slightly wrong with the music). We've loved everything we've heard thus far from this band. Kind of Black is yet another stunning collection of mind-bending music from one of our favorite underground artists. Top pick.
US project ELECTRIC BIRD NOISE have been around since the late 1990s, and is first and foremost the creative vehicle of composer and multi-instrumentalist Brian Lea MacKenzie from what I understand. There are half a dozen or so full length productions released under this project name, and the most recent of these is “Kind of Black”, which was issued through US label Silber Records in early 2014.
When I last encountered this project, it was by reviewing their previous studio effort “Desert Jelly”, a delightful conglomeration of Krautrock, space rock, and synth pop. An album that at times was stunning. From what I understand that production is the odd one out in the discography of Electric Bird Noise however, and this album seems to be described as a creation that see this project returning to their roots.
While I don’t know enough about Electric Bird Noise to be able to verify this, I can at least testify to the fact that this album is dramatically different from it’s predecessor in just about anything. Music so markedly different that it is difficult to comprehend that these two albums are products of the same mind, and especially as it’s just a year between them.
Basically this latest album contains three types of composition: There are sound collages consisting of echoing, reverberating and resonating sounds, generally light in tone, coming together in atmospheric creations without any defined melody as such, but with a high number of melodic details emanating from a frail noise wall tapestry. Then there are creating that starts as minimalistic melodies constructed by way of slowly plucked, echoing guitar notes, gradually invaded by additional textures of echoing, reverberating and droning sounds, developing towards an arrangement that is in part or in full an atmospheric laden noise tapestry with subtle melodic resonances. Then at last we have the darker drones that opens up the last set of tunes, invaded by either echoing, reverberating and resonating light toned textures or by additional drones and noise textures, again concluding with some sort of noise texture tapestry. The most dramatic of these concluding track eleven, a creation that is almost unpleasant due to the dramatic nature of some of the invading sounds in the second half.
As far as mood and atmosphere is concerned this is a bleak and desolate album. This isn’t the beautiful art of music as such, but more like music as an art of subtle despair and quiet desperation, with occasional dramatic tendencies bubbling to the surface. If you dream a lot, you may have had those dreams where you are in an idyllic place, everything seems to be just perfect and brimming with happiness. And then you get a strong feeling that something is terribly, dramatically and possibly even deadly wrong. This is the soundtrack for the part of that dream from when that feeling of wrongness appears.
It’s an intriguing ride, but obviously not a ride for everyone. If you are generally intrigued by minimalistic music and soundscapes, are drawn to dark and desolate moods, or just generally interested in artists that use their instruments, in this case mainly guitars, in unusual and unconventional manners, then “Kind of Black” is a production you possibly might want to check out. In terms of style, for those with am keen interest in such matters, I would place this one somewhere on the border between drones, post rock, minimalistic experimental music and ambient soundscapes.
~ Olav Bjornsen, House of Prog
Brian Lea McKenzie has been recording as Electric Bird Noise for almost twenty years, his back catalogue drawing from a variety of genres including experimental, new wave, prog and electro-pop. This latest album, the first I have heard from Electric Bird Noise, is firmly in the experimental category. The eleven tracks here, entitled simply One to Eleven, are a form of bizarre instrumental music based around repetition and jarring dissonance. Coming across like the soundtrack to a surreal psychological thriller or spooky fantasy movie, the music is unsettling yet oddly engaging, and often has a mind-altering, mesmeric quality. And as strange as the music is, it is in fact melodic, albeit based on unusual and discomfiting combinations of notes. It's a serious and challenging form of art music, akin to the more avant garde end of modern classical music, whilst also overlapping with forms of underground musical expression like drone and sound sculpture.
~ Kim Harten, Bliss/Aquamarine
Last year Electric Bird Noise released its most accessible album to date revealing a rather unknown electronic side. “Kind Of Black” sounds a bit like a kind of move back to the roots of guitar experimentation.
Brian Lea McKenzie alternates extremes for Electric Bird Noise. After the remarkable “Desert Jelly” I was referring to “Kind Of Black” which brings us back to the edge of heavy experimentalism. It’s a rather abstract composition, which sounds totally improvised and on which the manipulation of guitar notes become more important than the effectively writing skills of the artist. On the other hand, I have to admit it sometimes appears to be a real coup de force as the entire album seems to have written by the only use/play of guitar. It’s minimal and not that accessible for a wider audience.
“Kind Of Black” is a surreal sound universe made of bizarre sound treats. The final part of the work reveals a more sophisticated approach where I got the impression some extra sounds enhance the composition. McKenzie here also explores darker ideas, which finally lead to a few disturbing sound atmospheres. The four last tracks are obscure sound manipulations revealing a more fascinating side of this work. “Eleven” is not only the last cut, but definitely the real apotheosis of an album revealing two sides.
Conclusion: The main part of this work couldn’t convince me at any single moment, but the final tracks clearly show a different approach. Electric Bird Noise remains a totally bizarre experiment in sound.
Electric Bird Noise is another well established noise artist that is pushing two decades of activity. Crafting hypnotic yet challenging experimental music, this is the dark side of nu-age. No phantom crystals or spiritual transcendence here, this is music to pull your soul right into the muck from which it came. Your alien godparents may be flying by on a saucer overhead, but if you are listening to this, they may assume you have already been conquered by Lord Kinbote and abandon your soul to lesser beings. Beware this record's power.
~ Space Rock Mountain
Kind of Black is the latest record from Brian McKenzie’s project Electric Bird Noises, and it’s a bit of a challenger. Referring to it as “elevator music for art museums” is generous, because to me it sounds like the soundtrack to European silent horror movies. The eleven tracks found here all sound spooky; it’s distorted and peculiar guitar sounds for the most part, with noises and things added here and there to make it even more spooky, I guess. The wobble of the guitars are ominous and menacing, and if you listen to it in a dark room, you are sure to have nightmares. Heck, if you listen to it in a fully lit room, it’ll give you nightmares. Not sure how I feel about Kind of Black, but something in my gut tells me not to turn my back on it…
~ Joseph Kyle, Dagger
Electric Bird Noise is Brian Lea McKenzie's home base, his refuge of psychedelic tonalities and fever dreams, skewed realities and paranoid familiarizations. In the Feel No Other duo with singer Claudia Gregory, he waxes grandiloquent in chamber sophistications, but Kind of Black is pure Forbidden Planet, stark, spooky, alien, and schizophrenically terrene all at once. This is not music to sip tea and hot toddies by but rather a dementia parade one cannot look away from. The ambiences are simple, uncrowded, mostly quietly nightmarish, and created entirely through guitar and pedals (or whatever the hell substitutes for pedals these days; laptops and such, I'm guessing).
In its own way, this is meditation music for those frustrated with the limits of reality, unable to bear another moment in Betty Crocker TV outfall and corporate branding, preferring pools of honesty for a change, even if they're more than a little jarring, somewhat offputting but inevitably compelling. Were Satie to have been a ketamine addict or conspiracy theorist, this is the sort of furniture music he would've composed, the exact opposite of his gnossienes and gymnopedies: that is to say, perfectly in alignment with their intent but from the warped side of the looking glass.
In fact, because another Silber Records release, Chvad SB's latest, is much in the same netherlands, I'd say listening to both is the best idea; not that they're identical, not at all, but because the intentions are the same…in noticeably different measures. You don't merely cock an ear but instead step into the landscaping just as you would in the darker savvier video games (think X-Box 360's Limbo with music accompanying the ominously forlorn breezes or perhaps sections of PS2's Hobbit, that sort of thing, but even more so). This sort of sonic smithery has, since the days of Sensations Fix and other highly arty progressive groups, been called 'sculpting in the air', and if you aren't entirely sure what that fully connotes, then Kind of Black will make you a convert. You only, in this particular case and more than a few others, be willing to disturb yourself.
~ Mark S Tucker, FAME
So, there I was, browsing through the internet when I decided to check my email and what was there but another e-mailing list email from Brian Silber & friends at Silber Media, which specializes in ambient, shoegaze, noise-rock, experiemental, avant-garde drone and so on. Every couple of months or so I receive an update of what’s new at Silber Media. This time, I saw that there were a few interesting items, indeed. And the cool thing about this is that, since these emailings are sent to press-types for reviews, promotion, etc, they provide free downloads for certain items.
The one we’re talking about here is the new album from Electric Bird Noise; it’s a CD called Kind of Black, a take on Miles Davis’s classic album, Kind of Blue (this is evident from looking at the EBN album cover, which has its own artwork that partly superimposes the album cover design of Kind of Blue, featuring “Miles Davis” spelled out in the upper left corner and a bit of the small Columbia Records logo, which was on the original Kind of Blue album). Each song title is imaginatively titled (a little sarcasm there): for example, the first song is called “one”, next up is “two”, then “three”, “four”, “five”, “six” and so on, up to “eleven”, the eleventh and final cut. I know it’s sort of easy to poke fun at the song title method, but it actually works in this configuration. Each tune just bleeds right into the next, e.g., the song “three” ends precisely at 2:58 and after the final note of that one plays, “four” starts up seamlessly. It’s as if this whole album is really one long song, sliced up into eleven tracks.
What I like about Kind of Black is that, being a rather ambient, chill-out, drone-style sound, you’d expect or assume that the instrumentation would be configured of synthesizers and circuit-bending and all sorts of pre-programmed computer noises, sampled “found sounds” and whatnot. However, that is not the case with Kind of Black. Instead, the ethereal atmospherics are emitted by a guitar and it’s not even hooked into a guitar synthesizer like Robert Fripp or Adrian Belew uses, to make their guitars sound exactly like one playing a synthesizer keyboard. No, EBN uses just a straight guitar with no effects, just a bit of reverb and a clean, kind of jazzy style of guitar sound, with crisp, clear, clean notes, played fantastically moving. Because of the novelty of the dearth of synthesizers and the ambient, drone sound made up almost exclusively of guitar (there is a bit of synth accompaniment on some cuts: “six”, for instance, has a bit of keyboard jamming in the background that doesn’t overtake the guitar, but fits nicely in. In other areas, say, “one” or “two” or “three”, all there is to hear is a guitar; no percussion, no bass, no piano or keyboards (except as noted), and all instrumental at that (which is kind of obvious). In fact, “seven” is an exceptional example of how this bare-boned guitar solo ambience works out: it’s quite mesmerizing, although it sounds, from reading about it here, that it may be boring or a snoozer of a record, that is far from the case. The very first time I listened to Kind of Black, I was hooked. Something in this brilliant guitar noodling has a hypnagogic germ in it that infects the mind with a sound which can’t be ignored and that actually reels one in. Just sitting there with this album playing, one goes far, far down a rabbit hole, so to speak, into a netherworld of surreality and fantasy that causes you to lose yourself in its magical “stream-of-subconsciousness”.
The longest song is “nine”, which comes in at close to eight minutes (7:53, to be exact). There exists, in “nine” some background sounds; strange electric raindrop sounds, staccato-like drips and drops, a plaintive, whining, whisper of synth air, reminiscent of the score to a well-written, nuanced, psychologically thrilling horror film. “Nine” is the kind of spooky music that you would hear start playing in a part of one of those oh-so-typical scenarios in a scene in which a young, defenseless girl, all by herself, hears a noise and/or sees a shadow or catches a glimpse of some sort of movement out of the corner of her eye and you, the viewer, watching this take place are wont to yell at the screen “get out of there, stupid” or “what the hell are you doing? Just forget about it and go back to the safety of your house- or at least bring your dumb boyfriend (if he hasn’t already been killed off at this point in the movie)” – anyway, while the girl walks around, seeking out the source of whatever it was that attracted her attention, all of a sudden the kind of music that “nine” represents, starts to play; a slow, quiet, creepy build-up, letting you, the viewer know that something ominous and terrorizing is about to happen, but the director usually drags this kind of thing out, letting the tension and suspense build up, not just in the girl on the screen, but in the person watching the movie. If some “victim-to-be” were checking out where a sound came from and what it was, only to be killed in a gruesome, terrible way and it happened rather quickly, it would be too predictable and the payoff would not be as great as it would had the terror-laced tension had had lots of time in which to build up. That’s why this obvious target of a character in a horror flick like this, if it’s made well enough, would have a long scene, the creepy, “warning” and ominous music starting up, the kind of music that is unmistakably portentious that something very bad and violent is about to happen. The longer this goes on, the further this girl goes, in search of this…this…whatever it is that has her on edge and curious enough to go find out whence it came, the longer it takes for whatever is going to happen to her happen, the tauter the tension becomes, until you get to a point where the tension “cable” is stretched so far, so tightly that it inevitably snaps and then, “BAM”, that something – whatever it is: a throat getting cut, an axe decapitating the victim, opening a door and the surprise is lurking right behind it and all of a sudden the quiet, creepy signal-of-doom music gives way to a loud crescendo of music; instantly freak-out loud music timed to go with the horror of whatever is happening onscreen.
I think you get the picture, the idea about how Kind of Black moves along. I think it makes for a great listen and it doesn’t “spoil” quickly, it has staying power and the intense mood keeps your interest even after a dozen or more listens.
If you’re big on avant-garde, atmospheric drone music with noodling guitar notes creeping up and down your spine, Kind of Black is for you. For more information on this and other Silber Media releases, check out http://www.silbermedia.com and get connected.
~ Kent Manthie, Independent Review
In the span of eleven titles, Electric Bird Noise re-define what experimental incidental music can be. A guitar. That’s all that is being utilized on this album and what gets done with it is remarkable! The twangs, the reverb, the echo and that glorious delay are all employed to their maximum potential. Slip this one on at the party and watch people get uncomfortable, there isn’t anything to really hang on to here. The barest shards of progressions and melodies get trotted out only to be shoved out of the way for a series of notations which are not so much notes as they are depth markers for how far down into the cave you wish to descend.
Be assured, this isn’t the sort of material made to brighten someone’s day or put a stupid, unquestioning smile on their face. To play Kind of Black is to just let the world go and move through a kind of surrealistic revue where matter becomes solid and then turns to vapor. Where gravity has been suspended and a person utterly loses their bearings in an unrelenting storm of magnetically charged chords; the Floyd’s earliest albums sometimes would hint at this kind of misanthrope, but they’d never wander too far from the norms of songwriting. Electric Bird Noise have no norms to define them (or him as the case may be), this is just one more segment of their overall musical spectrum.
Is this a stand alone suite? Will there be more? I certainly hope so. While listening to this can be somewhat challenging the first few times, eventually and insidiously it does grow on you. To the point where other songs and artists begin to sound like they are the ones who don’t make sense; it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say Hitchcock’s original version of Psycho would have benefited quite healthily from this as its soundtrack. No, I’m not saying the guy who composed this is anything like dear, dear Norman; but he’s definitely indulging in disturbing harmonic experiments. It probably was a lot of fun to do this, to just sit down and let these sorts of moods and tones cascade out of the strings.
Kind of Black has the sort of intensity you’d expect out of, say, a panic attack. Where everything is continually on edge and sleep is not an idea to even consider. One’s nerves get lit up like a Christmas tree when this is coming out of the speakers, short circuited by the barrage of myriad multiplying thoughts tumbling out of a mind that just won’t switch off. Imagine, if you can, what would happen if you went to turn off your computer and it somehow just kept booting back up. Each time you’d grow a little more panicked, a bit more undone…Slowly, with an inexorably inescapable pace, the synapses in your skull would begin to fray and snap.
Here you can dwell in a place which stalks sanity like a pack of jackals hounding wounded prey. You can puzzle over how this was done, you might even try to be the bright star that this doesn’t affect (best of luck with that), or you can offer up no resistance and bathe in these enigmatically titled pieces – 1 through 11, that’s all the explanation you get – because whether you want them to or not, they’re coming for you.
~ Santa Sangre