Le Millipede ~ Legs and Birds

Legs and Birds has been in the works for a while, a series of singles given to friends, only one copy made of each (save for three copies of a double-sided single).  This year, as Sufjan Stevens once did with his friends-and-family Christmas EPs, the entire series has been collected for public consumption.

We hope that the original copies will be treasured for life, but we’re glad to have access to the music, which is presented in original fashion: two discs, the first featuring ten “legs” from The Notwist’s trombonist, the other including seven tracks of birdsong.  Yes, you read that right ~ Mathias Götz, as Le Millipede, has recorded his own personalized version of For the Birds, and it soars.

Since the ten lead tracks average three minutes in length, each could be a single (albeit not the bird tracks, which range from fifteen seconds to seven minutes).  “1st Leg” is particularly engaging, with a languid, trip-hop tempo, trombone and wordless da-da-da-da-da’s.  “2nd Leg” is chime, bell and tambourine-happy, and has the feel of a carnival, akin to Modus’ O Mira Novitas.  The da’s turn to do’s, but the timbre is just as bright.  What did the recipients feel when they played these gifts?  Did they compare notes?  Were any disappointed when, say, the mood of one turned out to be different from another?  “3rd Leg,” for example, is breath and chant, layer and drone.  Or did Götz tailor the music to the recipient, knowing that the one who received “4th Leg” had an appreciation for choir, big band and barbershop quartet?

By “6th Leg,” the tempo has calmed down a bit, the combination of trombone and glockenspiel a gorgeous study in contrasts.  The “7th Leg” is brassy and reverberant, nearly drone, while the 8th brings in the birds, a harbinger of what is to come.  They continue through the “9th Leg,” which is definitely drone, amassing in a manner that is slightly sinister, and descend merrily upon the vocal 10th.  This sets the stage for the birds: lots and lots of birds, closely miked, environments captured alongside them.  Streams, planes, bees and the like can be heard in the background.  These are active, flocking birds, likely captured when the day, and the worms, are fresh.

The most striking piece, “Wanderfalke,” breaks the mold by following a single peregrine falcon beside flowing waters.  The cry is less treble-high than the others, even forlorn.  “Mittelmeermöwe” sounds like a hungry cat, but a quick Google search reveals that it’s only a seagull.  The grand finale belongs to the “Baumpieper” or tree-pipit, dominating the foreground against a backdrop of traffic and mourning doves.

This leaves the question, “What to make of it all?”  While one might view the second disc as a bonus, the inclusion of birds on the last three legs of Disc One leads one to believe that Götz not only has an affinity for birdsong, but views the birds as compositional partners.  In doing so, he follows a long chain of composers, from Handel to Beethoven to Messiaen to Rothenberg, who acknowledge the inspiration of the avian kingdom.  (Richard Allen)

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