W h o k I l l 4AD *****
Merrill Garbus was acclaimed for her idiosyncratic vision when BiRd-BrAiNshit the scene a few years ago. Armed with a battered ukulele, a batch of crackly field recordings and a superb honk of a voice, tUnE-yArDs’ one-lady band was a whirlwind of energy and imagination.
It didn’t quite come together as well on record as it probably sounded in Garbus’s head, but the premise was sound and we were carried along by her enthusiasm. Those who saw Garbus live were even more convinced, testifying to a spirited wildness at the heart of her sound.
The second time around and Garbus’s freewheeling wildness really powers w h o k i l l. The album is tribal, guttural, frantic, infectious, vivid and extreme, something you certainly won’t hear every day of the week.
We may live in an era of musical plenty, but more often than not stylistic and creative barriers seem to restrict the number of truly maverick artists who can carry off a different sound and still attract listeners. While you’ll undeniably hear traces of Brian Eno and David Byrne at their pomp on this album, Garbus rarely sounds here like anyone else.
The tribal stomping and wibbly-wobbly rhythmic fever of the opening My Countrysets a tone that never falters. The astonishing Riotriot(a superbly orchestrated cascade of intense sonic giddiness), the swaggering Gangstaand the daring, dashing sway of Biznessemphasise again and again the strange, euphoric span of Garbus at work.
You can credit a better studio set-up and more confidence for the step-up between albums. But the reality is that Garbus is now writing and performing at a new and spectacular peak. Time to take a walk with tUnE-yArDs on the wild side. See tune-yards.com
Download tracks: My Country, Riotriot, Gangsta, Bizness