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4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (18 April 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: 4AD
  • ASIN: B004LPNB74
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,017 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

BBC Review

New England-born and Oakland-based artist Merrill Garbus enjoys making music on her own. Well, almost. Shunning old-school studio sessions, she embraces her Californian bedroom's hard drive splicing tools. At least this is the public face she chooses to display as tUnE-yArDs. Garbus has a penchant for painting said face with bright tribal-style streaks, to match the urban-hollering exultation of her somewhat robust singing style. Her live performance, due to her very physical presence, tends to be almost traditional-entertainer, but her recorded oeuvre is able to take full advantage of tumbling digital pile-up technology.

This second tUnE-yArDs album advances the concept of rampant collision, hiking the extremities up to a further level. Lo-fi meets hi-fi, as big drum thunder under-booms sometime dictaphone-style scratchiness in the vocal department. There's a pronounced field-recording intention, recalling Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica period, as well as the ethnic vocal capturings of New York composer Meredith Monk. It's also possible that Garbus has simply experienced these methods at source, whether through the Baka pygmies, the far-northern Sami people or the indigenous Americans of her own land. Whichever way, she is becoming expert at polyphonic hocketing, either through these tribal folks or maybe just via The Slits. Her vocals ring around the ears, scampering across the stereo field like steel-toe-capped pixies. This is an album that's best aired on headphones, at critical volume.

Garbus sets up a jagged jacking from one section to another, this minimalist brutality paradoxically ripe with rich arrangements, mashing up punk guitar riffs, rickety industrial percussion and saxophone belches. Gangsta has a great bass hook, Powa comes close (but not too close) to a conventional rock song, and Riotriot rams together flood organ, bangin' drums and spiked guitar, crashing into a sudden vocal a cappella. A rushing gust of a chorus invests Bizness with a mixture of prettiness and desperate atonality, as Garbus belts "don't take my life away" at incessant high speed. She even tackles a lullaby (of sorts) with Wooly Wolly Gong. It's like we'd imagine music made by a dangerously bright child, perfectly in touch with its razor-sharp instincts. Or it's a car-crash in the midst of a tropical rain forest. --Martin Longley

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By The Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 April 2011
Format: Audio CD
tUnE-yArDs' (aka Merrill Garbus) 2009 album 'Bird-Brains' was
an extraordinary debut. It blew me quite away just a bit!
It was so wonderfully rough and ready; stitched together
from left-over bits of macrame, wood-shavings and cardboard.
The re-formed detritus of a wild and original imagination, it
was going to be a very hard act to follow and Ms Garbus both
sort-of has and sort-of hasn't with her new release 'Whokill'.

The fundemental trace-elements of her muse are largely intact.
My reservations are less about what's missing than about that
which has been added. It's got a bigger, fatter sound (a bit
more money in her kitbag this time round probably helped) but
some of the fragile, ragged, fallible, eccentricity is missing.
The addition of a rumbling and abrasive bass guitar (played
by Nate Brenner) and a sound engineer (Eli Crews) has taken
Ms Garber off the front porch and into the studio. It's a risky
move. The listening world needs some magically small things too.

There are ten tracks in the collection. Best among them would
have to include : 'Es-so', a gloriously brash, jazz-tainted
invention full of jangling guitar and twitchy percussion; 'Powa',
a rather lovely song with enough open spaces to allow the voice
to bloom and shine; 'Bizness', a curiously affecting piece of
insect music (the busy hive of Ms Garber's imagination has
rarely sounded busier!) with a really uplifting vocal chant;
'You Yes You', too is bursting with sunny flamboyant energy.

It is to 'Wooly Wooly Gong', however, to which we must turn to
experience the true beating heart and soul of the project.
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Format: Audio CD
After the joy that was contained within her rough-around-edges debut BiRd-BrAiNs, recorded using a simple digital recorder and free mixing software, the question was always going to be what effect a slightly less DIY approach would have on the unique sound of Merril Garbus, or whether she would keep things as unpolished on her follow-up. The great news is that she has managed to retain what makes her an exciting artist and augment it when necessary with a fuller sound or slightly more production. Yes, this is a more polished final product but that doesn't mean it isn't risky, in fact there's at least one track here that pushes things a little further than anything on that first album, and most importantly this is a sophomore album that doesn't disappoint, that makes you excited all over again about music which can be both popular and edgy.

Tribal drums, looped vocal instrumentation and distorted lead vocals on my country are all familiar and it's not until a huge keyboard stab comes halfway through that you realise what a bit of support can do giving the track an invigorating injection. Horns, group vocals, cowbells and marimba are all added to the mix in a furious finish that ends with the isolated line 'the worst thing about living a lie is just wondering when they'll find out.' that presumably referring to the lie of the American dream, which Garbus is keen to deconstruct, for after all 'we cannot all have it.' The first appearance of heavier guitars comes on es-so along with a stand up bass and Rhodes piano to help create a funky, almost jazzy sound which will be repeated on other tracks. But it finishes with an alarm sound that leads into one of the albums more adventurous tracks, gangsta, which opens with the challenge,'What's a boy to do if he'll never be a gangsta?
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Format: Audio CD
Forget quirky, Merill Garbus must be mad, and that type styling of hers is just the tip off the iceberg. A legacy from her awkwardly intelligent debut BiRd-BrAiNs, it does the job of setting the tone for the kitchen-sink inventiveness of W H O K I L L well - an album that, once again, is never anything less than interesting.

Cleaning up the majority of the voice digitalisation that characterised that debut, as well as its bedroom-budget recording, Garbus has a sleeker beast on her hands with W H O K I L L, but happily it's not one untrue to her cut-and-paste ethics.

At a glance, the uninitiated might mistake Garbus's eccentrics for wilful destruction of sound, optimistic throwing of everything within arm's reach with the hope that something sticks. Yet, there's a deft majesty at play that bleeds throughout the record, cleverly gluing its disparate elements together.

Amidst squelchy, foreign rhythms and demented sax arpeggios, determined drum pulses provide the foundation to the infectious opener "My Country". Garbus, in turn, here and elsewhere, is way out of her shell ranging from the spoken word through general shrieking and impossible notes. As a result, W H O K I L L quickly contorts itself into a party record for the mentally questionable.

Proof, if required, comes courtesy of "Gangsta" - a track that, at least during its opening bars, recalls the outsider awesomeness that Beck used to knock out for fun. Amongst other things, Garbus takes the opportunity during its running time to vocally mimic the siren that periodically interjects during her bubbly beats.
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