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ALBUM REVIEW: tUnE-yArDs

w h o k i l l
w h o k i l l
Courtesy 4AD Records

 

tUnE-yArDs is the high-flung musical atmosphere created by the always soulful, never conventional Merrill Garbus, of ex-Sister Suvi acclaim. On her second album w h o k i l l we see that Garbus is still up to the eccentric merry-making she began with only a voice recorder, ukelele and a willingness to peddle cassette tapes. After several reissues of her debut BiRd-BrAiNs, we see that Garbus is now able to give a proper studio treatment to her anomalous creations on her new album.

The opening track “My Country” begins with Garbus' signature minimalistic yet catchy floor tom percussion, only to end in a peak of climbing saxophones and her uproarious voice. From soulful to a flavorful grit, Garbus' vocal range is a tantalizing cross section of styles including folk, reggae, scat and soul, all at her command for whatever errant direction is desired. Likewise, Garbus' miniscule inclusion of instruments is just as elaborate sounding, keeping on with the days when she created guitar loops on stage as a sign of self-reliance. But don't make the mistake of thinking this is just another Lo-fi record, Garbus' compositions are asymmetrical enough she might have used her own haircut for inspiration.

“Es-So” has an angular, off-time movement to it that will make you listen in anticipation of Garbus's airy chirps, only to deteriorate into a spacey cacophony; and somehow it all works. Throughout w h o k i l l, Garbus' augmentations to her sound are sure to entice new fans without being too much of a departure for her cult following built over years of tireless touring. In the enigmatic flexing of her voice and the insertion of social commentary in her lyrics, listening to w h o k i l l may be the only way we get to know a personality as unique and varied as hers. (4AD Records)