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Niobe

Blackbird's Echo

(Tomlab; US: 10 May 2009; UK: 8 May 2009)

I wasn’t expecting much from this record by looking at its cover. I know you’re not supposed to judge that, but in this case, it resulted in a very pleasant surprise. I figured Niobe’s fifth studio album would be typical singer-songwriter fare. There certainly is an element of that, but it is undercut by sample happy freak-folktronica. Much of it is slow but moving, minimal yet dense, loosely jazzy, boss nova, and indie rock weirdness, with occasional flourished into house and camp lounge. Guests to this bizarre garden party include DJ Olive, who adds a nice beat to his eponymous track, and David Grubbs of Gastr del Sol, who brings some avant-garde organ down for an off-kilter duet. The focus is mostly on surreal soundscapes and lyricism to match, as if Björk got Syd Barrett out of his bomb-shelter before he died and sat him behind a console. Bring the tea, and Blackbird’s Echo will deliver you a mad romp of a good time.

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Author of blurbs, curator of playlists, and booker of shows, Alan Ranta has been plugging away at that music writing and programming thing since 2004. His brutally honest critical opinion has appeared in such publications as Exclaim!, CBC Music, PopMatters and Tiny Mix Tapes, and has been enlisted to help judge the Polaris Music Prize, Pazz & Jop, and Juno Awards. Based in East Van, he graduated with a BFA in music from Simon Fraser University in 2012. He's also a social media plague, cat whisperer, socio-political haranguer, Canucks fan, and one of the last remaining cowboys, with a butt that won't quit.


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