Electric Bird Noise
Unleashing the Inner Robot
Silber Media Records, 2014
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. -KM.