sat 24/08/2019

CD: tUnE-yArDs - whokill | reviews, news & interviews

CD: tUnE-yArDs - whokill

CD: tUnE-yArDs - whokill

Merril Garbus’s second album is thrillingly original

Once in a bright blue moon some new music comes under the radar that’s a reminder of the fact it’s still possible to write “new music”. That is, music which seems both infinitely challenging and infinitely pleasurable. On whokill you get dissonance fighting for dominance over melody, naivety punching sophistication roundly on the nose, edginess getting the edge over harmony, and a suggestion of myriad influences from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Konono No 1. Take for example the opener, “My Country”: pounding tribal drums, pseudo-operatic vocal loops, fat bursts of tinselly synth and a thrilling, almost Gershwin-esque melody holding it all together. Then the song screeches to a halt as Garbus garbles, “The-thing-about-living-a-lie-is-just-wondering-when-they’ll-find-out”, before everything springs back into life and builds to a calamitous climax featuring a good-natured scrap between sax and vocal.

And the atypical is pretty typical of what to expect from the whole album: a tUnE-YaRdS tune doesn’t stay still for more than two bars; it’s always quickly downing its beer and moving on to the next bar - and the next bar might be a jazz bar or a heavy rock bar, or a gospel bridge, or even a barbershop choir middle-eight. whokill won't be to everyone's taste, but Ms Garbus has somehow come down on the right side of the genius/irritant divide with this more 3D refinement and enlargement of her debut’s 'homemade charm'. Its success perhaps lies in the fact that despite her having thrown a whole toolbox’s worth of sonic spanners into the works of these songs, their charm and spirit still shines through like new coins in a muddy puddle.

Watch tUnE-yArDs's video for "Bizness"

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