It’s no secret: birds are kind of getting to be a worn-down trend in popular culture. Don’t believe me? I direct thee to the infamous “Put a bird on it!” skit courtesy of Portlandia. Once quotable and amusing, now ubiquitous and tiring, this marks the death-knell of the bird’s vaunted status in indie rock subculture (when a show lampooning hipster culture mocks your trend, chances are that trend is done for). Kitschy bird art aside, our avian friends have been a popular symbol of rebirth, hope and noble grace for as long as humans have been scrawling symbols by firelight on the walls of caves. The winged fascinate the unwinged, and come to symbolize the very flight of dreams.
Experimental music is no stranger to bird obsessions (see: Silver Mount Zion, A). So it was with some marked amusement that I noted the rather hilarious song titles accompanying the newest release by Des Moines’ Moulttrigger, appropriately titled, you guessed it, Birds. Even the name behind Moulttrigger is a bird joke, if the maker of these luscious sounds can be believed: ladies and gentlemen, I give you one Dave Wren.
Was it the name itself that encouraged this quasi-concept album of sampled bird sounds, or is Dave Wren an adopted pen name concurrent with the subject matter? Who knows. All I know is, I like birds, too, for many varied and probably boring reasons. And really, who doesn’t, amirite?
“Breaker 1-9, This Is Pecker Wood”. “A Whiter Shade Of Quail”. “Whole Lotta Dove”. “Tern, Tern, Tern”. “I’m Just Lookin’ For Some Thrush”. Let’s get those titles out of the way. And when you’re done cleaning up the drink you just spit out, I’ll tell you about the music. Simply put, this stuff is addictive. It’s pretty much just what it says: looped, sampled bird sounds. “Pecker Wood” and “Die Fiedergrouse” are fine examples of what the Moulttrigger Bandcamp describes as “a various array of emotional messes”. The album is even tagged, perhaps facetiously, as “children’s music”. Additionally, there’s moments of bird audiobook announcements scattered here and there (a trick I pulled myself back in the very early days of Lost Trail). The bird sounds themselves swell to an almost disturbing level at times, then flutter (heh) back down into passive, pastoral beauty. “Whole Lotta Dove” is swarmed in flanged static, while “Tern” is made up of alarming, eerie pulses for most of its nine and a half hypnotizing minutes. Think of Matthew Herbert’s One Pig without the inherent, mood-murdering politics.
So there you have it. Evidence that there may be some life in the bird-music subgenere yet. Mr. Wren has arranged what could be some very cloying or monotonous nature samples into stirring works of emotional resonance and haunting ethereality. Let’s just hope this whole bird thing doesn’t take a ‘tern’ for the worst (forgive me). (Zachary Corsa)