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Woodpecker Wooliams

The Bird School of Being Human

(Robot Ekephant Records; US: 10 Sep 2012; UK: 10 Sep 2012)

A strange but strangely compelling record

This odd but strangely compelling little record is a seven-song cycle that relies heavily on bird imagery to convey its themes of… well, I don’t really know what. Opener “Red Kite (Prelude)” utilizes plucked harp and quavery little-girl vocals to create a dreamy soundscape that gradually builds into something foreboding courtesy of layered synths and rumbling undertones of percussion (or possibly thunder). As the record goes on, the tunes become busier and louder; the techno-fuzz of “Sparrow” is so layered as to lend its source material—it seems to contain references to Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow”—all but unrecognizable. “Magpie” brings us back to acoustic-strumming territory, before “Crow” delivers us to a feedback-laden fuzzscape. Through it all, those little-girl vocals act as our guide, the one constant in these endlessly shifting sonic sands.  Definitely an oddball record, then—but in a good way.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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