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|Electric Bird Noise
- Unleashing the Inner Robot
MP3 Album 1999 (re-issued 2014) | Silber 160
10 tracks, 45 minutes
$5 download (320 kbps, ~94 megs)
~ Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations
Electric Bird Noise's first album that started it all.
: Press Release
: Digital Booklet
: Listen to the album on Spotify
: Listen to the album on Bandcamp
Japanese Toy Song
The Hum of the Moon
The Shape of Clouds to Come
Three Thousand and Two
Anf/Spraid with Raid
Holdin Back the Tears
Electric Bird Noise follows a multiple of different paths on “Unleashing The Inner Robot”. The album begins with thrashing activity. With gradual movement forward the pieces grow larger and grow more interested in ambient soundscapes. Allowing both approaches to be on here gives off the sense of a wholly realized work. By having the aggressive with the meditative Electric Bird Noise shows off their considerable skill.
Plenty of percussion introduces the madness of “Number 4”. Things space out a bit for the aptly named “Lazy Tumble Weeds” whose work is considerably spaced out. Bubbling with pent-up aggression is the dark “Japanese Toy Song”. Elements of “Japanese Toy Song” veer into Post-Rock territory. Elegance and grandeur are explored on the gigantic “The Hum Of The Moon”. The highlight of the album and serving as the album’s heart is the reflective work of “Cloudless sulfur”. Akin to a flowing river the sounds glimmer with hope. Towards the end of the album things change with the relatively electro-influenced “The Shape Of Clouds To Come”. From there the songs transform into more ambient-inspired pieces like the classical droning quality of “Three Thousand and two”. Psychedelic territory is explored on the sprawling “Anf/Spraid with Raid”. Ending things off on a relatively dramatic note is the emotional “Holdin Back The tears”.
“Unleashing The Inner Robot” explores a wide variety of styles. Together the pieces create an unspoken narrative. Electric Bird Noise does fine work in making these pieces speak great truths.
~ Beach Sloth
US project ELECTRIC BIRD NOISE was, as far as I can tell, formed sometime in the 1990’s by composer and musician Brian Lea McKenzie. If any other musicians are involved in these ventures I don’t really know. There’s not a lot of information about this project to be found, but from what I can see “Unleashing the Inner Robot” is the first album to be released under this moniker. It was first released in 1999 through obscure label Artfag, and was since reissued in 2014 through US label Silber Records.
As with many albums released through Silber Records, this is a production that is somewhat difficult to categorize for me. It is a rock album, of sorts, as the electric guitar is fairly prominent. The use of textures makes it tempting to partially categorize it as post-rock, although the form, sound and structure isn’t all that similar to the landscapes most bands of that nature tend to explore. The just about ever present cosmic and space-tinged atmospheres might well be a calling card for space rock to be thrown into a description, but again used in a manner that most space rock fans would find…alien, as strange as that may sound.
From the slow, dystopian country tinged arrangements on Lazy Tumble Weeds to the twisted, ominous dark sounds on the not so aptly named Japanese Toy Song, from the Frippian overtones on The Shape of Clouds to Come to the playful Pink Floyd tinged guitars in the opening sequence of Anf/Spraid with Raid, and to the majestic, slow moving Blade Runner atmosphere soundscapes on Three Thousand and Two, there’s a fair bit of variety at hand here too. Delicate, plucked guitar details, majestic echoing guitar textures, surging light and dark electronic sounds, dark and twisted guitar effects and voice samples are some of the elements used and combined throughout. Always in an interesting manner too, and the material always comes across as well planned too. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if this was a fairly meticulous project in the making, back in the day.
In just over 45 minutes this production covers a whole lot of different ground, with audible nods in the direction of artists as different as Killing Joke, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Vangelis, albeit without taking on a more total import of any of the styles of those but rather employing certain details within a different context dominated by dark atmospheres, textured instrument details, drones, surging noises and a somewhat cosmic, futuristic or dystopian vibe as a fairly ongoing feature. I’d suggest those whose love for experimental rock music is equal to their passion for the literary works of a writer such as Philip K. Dick might well be something of a perfect audience for this album, especially if the album title “Unleashing the Inner Robot” is one that comes across as intriguing.
~ Olav Martin Bjørnsen, House of Prog
Available in a new resissued form, is a 1999 album from Electric Bird Noise, Unleashing the Inner Robot, that was just re-released in 2014. Their most recent album, Kind of Black is (which was reviewed here and is available to read), is a more minimalistic album, yet it contains elements of jazz and avant-garde-electronica. Kind of Black (the title being, most likely, a take-off on the Miles Davis classic jazz album, Kind of Blue) feature a lone guitar, no accompanying instruments or sounds, percussion, et cetera. The guitar itself plays with a most interesting effect, which gives the music a somewhat warped, reverberated texture. Not that each tune sounds alike, far from it. The style is the same: just that effect-laden electric guitar, but each song has a distinct feel to it. “Nine” has a slow, kind of creepiness to it, as if wandering about in a large, unwieldy cavern, with barely any light, save any one might have in the way of a flashlight.
Anyway, getting back to the album at hand, Unleashing the Inner Robot, we see that EBN has been doing some brilliant music-making for some time now. However, both the newly re-issued Unleashing the Inner Robot is more like Kind of Black than it might seem at least on one’s first exposure to it. I think understanding the genius of this 1999 classic could make one appreciate their other output. On the bottom, it seems EBN comes from basically a jazz point-of-view, that is, a kind of free-form, avant-garde jazz, a style that would not be out of place in the collection of a John Zorn fan or even an Ornette Coleman fan (which, I’d think would be mostly the same, with a little overlap).
Kind of Black, being more minimalistic than your typical Zorn album, still has a similar consciousness to it. But when you hear 1999’s Unleashing the Inner Robot, you can see that, besides Zorn, there is a wider scope of sound: for instance, on the music in the mid-way point of the album, I could hear some kinship with the King Crimson of the late 90s and the 2000s – from albums such as Thrak, The Construkction of Light and so forth. But there’s still more to it; layers and layers of well-crafted textures that are so compelling as to keep the listener in a stasis, an almost hypnagogic state.
Unleashing… adds some color to EBN’s repertoire. “Lazy Tumble Weeds” is an aptly named cut: it evokes a Sergio Leone-esque landscape: a sun-beaten, arid desert setting, where, between the crescendos of tension, we get a few minutes of enjoyment, sitting in the shade, drinking a cold drink and lazily staring out in the distance, to whatever’s happening.
“Holdin’ Back the Tears” has a great ending, which drops down a couple ranges and gives an otherwise wandering, travelogue sound, somewhat of the beginning of a metamorphosis, soundwise, but that metamorphosis doesn’t get a chance to manifest since only after about 10 seconds, the song (and the album) is over.
EBN really did quite a job on Unleashing… The mixing together of electronica with a captivating drone as well as this zombie dance thing on “Number 3”, for instance. Not to be confused, however, with “Number 4” which is the opening cut on Unleashing…it’s an intro to the rest of the album. In fact, “Number 4” is a 2 minute overture that throws everything at you, soundwise, that is on its way, once you get into the album: the avant-garde jazz thing, the electronica-noise-drone accoutrements, et cetera. But then, as was mentioned earlier, it jumps right into the Leone-like “Lazy Tumble Weeds”. So, when you get to “Number 3”, don’t expect another potpourri of sounds. Instead, it’s got an electronica-dance-groove to it, along with a healthy dose of the underlying jazz vibe. “Japanese Toy Song”, at the beginning, reminds me of the opening of a song that was written by David Lynch and Angelo Badalementi, from the Twin Peaks show, sung by the lovely, angelic-voice of Julee Cruise; “Japanese Toy Song” has a nice, romantic air about it. And then, “Hum of the Moon” is a bit more rocking: a guitar-heavy, beat-laden sound with an echoing, distortion-heavy guitar that really grips you and keeps you in place throughout the entire piece, it is really something special, only to end abruptly, with a downbeat chord that takes you, seamlessly, into “The Cloudless Sulfur”, a serene, mellow, meditative work that is a good bridge from the mid-section of the album to the last half.
Yes, this is a brilliant work and in the final analysis, I have to say that “jazz” just doesn’t cut it. It’s definitely got a bit of jazz in its veins, but “avant-garde” or “neo-progressive” might even fit better. It’s one of the better albums I’ve heard this year, even if it is a re-issue, at least it gives those who haven’t heard the original, a chance to redeem themselves and have easy access to it right now.
If you’d like some more information on Electric Bird Noise and/or Unleashing the Inner Robot, check out http://www.silbermedia.com – there are lots of other interesting albums by a variety of drone-noise-experimental bands that you can take a listen to or albums you can purchase.
~ Kent Manthie, Independent Review
Electric Bird Noise is from South Carolina and consists of Brian McKenzie on guitar, effects, and loops, Rev. Doc. Scromps on guitar, effects, bass, and keyboards, and Trey McManus on moog synthesizer. The promo material descibes them as playing "cinematic instrumental guitar music". I guess that by cinematic Electric Bird Noise is thinking in terms of creating themes or soundtrack music. Indeed this seems to be the case as they alternate between aggression and more peaceful sonic landscapes. These guys do a good job of creating varied guitar sounds, but also rocking out when brief moments call for it.
"Number Four" opens the disc with a short but aggressive guitar assault. Don't make assumptions though because the next tune, "Lazy Tumbleweeds", is softer and more ambient. But hold on to your hats cause "Japanese Toy Song" will blast you with strained guitars and tribal rhythms. The guitars become quite manic and I was reminded of some kind of space battle scene. Electric Bird Noise incorporates loops which along with the tribal rhythms and crashing guitars create a frantic mood that didn't allow me a moment to catch my breath.
Another highlight is "Cloudless Sulfur", a loop heavy tune with interesting percussion sounds that again becomes more intense after a minute or two. I like how the guitars will scream for a moment or two and then drop back to the opening theme. This could easily be annoying but Electric Bird Noise makes these stop/start changes work. "Number Three" features Frippoid sustained guitar notes to a techno rhythm. Soon a second guitar plays a slow but scorching melody along with the sustained guitar. A solid example of guitar-based electronica style music.
"Three Thousand And Two" is the most dreamy ambient space piece on the disc. If we're talking cinematic this should have been the final track as it's a great closer. Gorgeous soundscapes that bring the listener in for a soft landing. "Anf/Spraid With Raid" is the only song with a standard rock guitar sound though this isn't by any means a regular rock tune. A very cool spacey tune that drifts more overtly into spacerock and even a bit of prog rock territory. A slow organ melody plays along with the space guitar and shooting synths to create a cosmically psychedelic atmosphere. One of my favorites.
Most of the songs on this disc make concise statements rather than developing much so this an album that needs to be heard in its entirety to be appreciated. But Electric Bird Noise does a good job of making limited themes go a long way and exploring the possibilities of thematic development that also produces creatively cosmic music. I'll bet these guys could handle a sci fi film soundtrack quite capably.
~ Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations
The name of this band is deceptively funny. What I mean is that from the name you might get the idea that these guys are just jokers or that the music is quirky techno. Neither is really the case—I mean, they may have a sense of humor, but this is seriously great music.
You can close your eyes while listening to this CD and see pictures painted by the music. This is called impressionism. Impressionist paintings are those paintings that look like odd blotches of colors up close but if you look at them from a distance you see a boat or flowers. Impressionistic music is where the sounds portray images like Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” or “Nutcracker Suite”. With songs like “Lazy Tumbleweeds”, “The Hum of the Moon”, “The Shape of Clouds to Come” and so on you can see how this bands music fits into the impressionistic category. Frankly, I know of no other tight way to classify them. For one thing, the keyboards are very darkwave and much programming is done. Track 8, for instance, is a quiet darkwave number which immediately reminds one of EnGrave or Caul. At other times the music is very aggressive like “Japanese Toy Song” and “Number Four”. But what really pulls EBN out of a tight category is the exceptional guitar playing, the masterful use of dynamics, and great melodies. Each track is a “pocket symphony”, to use Brian Wilson’s term, and takes the listener from quiet moments to intense swells. While the bedrock of these ten songs are obviously the drum loops and keyboards, the guitars soar. The guitar playing immediately reminds me of two well-known virtuosos: Phil Keaggy and Uli Jon Roth. Phil Keaggy made a great album called “The Wind and the Wheat” which keeps popping into my head as I listen to this CD, and many times the guitar playing makes me think of Uli Jon Roth’s “Beyond the Astral Sky”. In short, I find myself quite enraptured by this disc.
~ Critical Tom