Equiknoxx – Bird Sound Power / DDS
Visit the Discogs page of Gavin Blair, AKA Gavsborg, and you’ll find an oddity: a credit on a 2013 album by Polish reggae artist Earl Jacob, for which the Jamaican producer plays the deranged compère. The opening: “Like a light switch on the wall my brain switches on and off… On and off like a big giraffe… Like a okapi! Okapi! Like a zebra…,” then he trails off into a scratchy cackle. Bird Sound Power doesn’t get quite that weird, but it’s riddled with surreal mischief-making. On the Gavsborg-produced opener, “Last Of The Mohicans,” a dancehall beat is peppered with strange sounds: flickering flutes, synth tones that coo like drowsy owls, prim melodies voiced by canned “ah”s. 30 seconds in, the drums pause so a chorus of smug voices can address the critics, “Hi haters! Bye haters!”
Blair isn’t an outsider taking the piss out of dancehall—he’s worked with the likes of Busy Signal and Beenie Man—and his slapstick is delivered with masterful control. As on the rest of the LP, every tom hit, snare roll and sparkly shaker is perfectly placed; the weirdness is delivered in clinically measured doses. Of course, dancehall has always been capable of mind-blowing originality. This album for Demdike Stare’s label—a collection of tracks by Gavsborg and his partner-in-crime Jordan Chung, AKA Time Cow—should help hip a new generation of dance music fans to the fact.
Other tracks by both Blair and Chung (their styles are often indistinguishable) follow the opener’s lead. On “Peanut Porridge” and “A Rabbit Spoke To Me When I Woke Up,” spindly melodies balance on sparse percussive frames, the kicks and ride cymbal hits positioned for maximum hip-swaying effect. “The Link”‘s drums are sent through tight delays for that extra rubbery sheen, while jet engine noises whoosh overhead. On “Timebird,” the only track credited to both Blair and Chung, a fairground melody is punctuated by vicious bird squawks. (Birdcalls are the Equiknoxx sound signature, hence the album’s punning title and excellent artwork.) Minimalist masterpieces or eccentric pranks? A bit of both, most likely.
Elsewhere, the ideas get more lurid, and heavier halftime grooves teeter on the edge of disarray. On the likes of “Clunk,” “Clink” and “Porridge Should Be Brown Not Green,” the drums stagger off-grid and the sample choices (including a nod to Silver Apples’ “Oscillations”) are unsettling: horror film violins, dissonant jangling bells. It’s almost overwhelming, and a few more melodic tracks offer respite. There’s a Neptunes flavour to the clavichords on “I Really Want To Write On Her Purple Wall.” The closer, “Congo Get Slap Like A Congo Get Slap,” is a glowing assemblage of chord vapour and chipmunk vocals. It’s an attractive ending to a beguiling, bizarre and often brilliant album.
RELEASE: Bird Sound Power
ORIGINAL RELEASED 2016-07-20
TOTAL TRACKS 12
01. Last Of The Mohicans
03. Peanut Porridge
04. Someone Flagged It Up!!
05. Porridge Should Be Brown Not Green
06. A Rabbit Spoke To Me When I Woke Up
07. The Link
10. I Really Want To Write On Her Purple Wall
11. Lizard Of Oz
12. Congo Get Slap Like A Congo Get Slap