DIY don’t mean shit if you ain’t got the chops to back it up. I’ve got boxes full of “DIY” cassettes in my storage room of captured crap, but thanks to limited ability, you won’t be hearing any of my collected “works” anytime soon.
You should, on the other hand, spend a few moments checking out the project of Merrill Garbus’ Tune Yards, a collection that deserves more than finding a resting place in the storage room or on the oxide of the tapes she sells at shows.
4AD has come to the rescue with issuing Tune Yards’ Bird-Brains on a larger scale, but not before treating those familiar with Garbus’ quirky persona with a limited edition screen-printed release.
To be fair, Garbus can be an acquired taste; I saw a video of Tune Yards’ “Hatari” on You Tube once-seemingly recorded in a small apartment-an immediate felt sympathy for the neighbors enduring her yells and howls while remaining transfixed at the beauty that her near-tribal delivery offered. Sealing it for me was how oblivious Garbus was in this performance-for-one; she was in another realm, channeling something fortunate enough to be captured.
For all of the DIY ethos running throughout Bird-Brains, there’s a sense that once a particular sound, rhythm, or chord is struck, Garbus has the good sense of capturing the moment and revisiting it. What’s even more exciting is the possibility of hearing how these songs have progressed in a year or two. There’s nothing to suggest that what we’re hearing in Bird-Brains is indeed the final word, note, or sound.
Her ukulele-evidently a family hand-me-down that spurred this foray into music-is ever present alongside homemade rhythms of breath, hands, and found objects. The back story suggests that the entire project was funded on the cheap with handouts and freeware, and it sounds as such accordingly. But the entire record is rich with passion and artistic vision, and it’s a rewarding headspin as Bird-Brains leaps from continent to continent, genre to genre, while managing to patch everything together in a sonic quilt that’s as precious as a family heirloom.
Of course, family heirlooms mean more to those it speaks to and Bird-Brains is designed to speak more to those who find value in the places and things that may be right in front of them.