Review: Various Artists – Birdsong from the Lower Branches (Hypnagogic Tapes, Nov 3)

Birdsong from the Lower Branches is an aptly titled collection of artists across the globe who work with voice, utterance, text-sound, and other related areas of study. Another various artists tape that came out earlier this year was Regional Bears’ New Tulips, but even though that splendid compilation already seemed to me to have assembled the full gaggle of usual suspects, the list of artists that contributed the pieces for Birdsong has no crossover whatsoever with that of New Tulips. Yet despite this obvious labor of love being specifically curated to “highlight the many different styles and techniques used in contemporary & experimental vocal work” in addition to the (relative) singularity of the roster, Birdsong still boasts quite a few familiar names, prolific babble-stalwarts that many of the weirdos bothering to check out this tape in the first place: Karen Constance (who also provided the cover collage), id m theft able, Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson, Seymour Glass, Ali Robertson. Just halfway through one can already see that the effort to present a diverse survey of creative work was wildly successful; we’re thrown from the jarring tape-switch enjambments of a speech-only track from Eric Mingus, James King’s humbly introduced and spectacularly executed “distillations,” a duet for emergency services siren and a cappella Irish folk song by Mabel Chah, an anxiety-soaked onslaught of gasps and groans from Rising Damp, a surreal post-Super Saturday broadcast from Robertson… the list goes on. A wonderfully eclectic and consistent set of of titillating tidbits.

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