tUnE-yArDs goes wild in ‘Whokill’

Throw on some war paint, a head band and mismatched clothes, because tUnE-yArDs’ new album, “Whokill” will take you to a wild, primitive state.

tUnE-yArDs is native New Englander Merrill Garbus’ experimental solo-project, where she creates organic, fecund sounds using only her strong, androgynous voice, a ukulele and spontaneous drum loops. 

Garbus kick starts her second album with “My Country.”

This track opens with four separately mic-ed looping elements, two drum beats and two vocal beats that appear one at a time, and eventually layer beneath Garbus’ vocals.

One minute her vocals are distant, the next muffled by erratic clacking, or streaming through multiple mics.

This ultra-dancy song grows around the hushed lyric, “The worst part of living a lie is wondering when they’ll find out.”

 The tUnE-yArDs style is best described as organized chaos –  there’s a lot going on at one time.

With a constant development of sounds within every song, the power continuously builds as Garbus throws in and takes out what she pleases, like an untamed and prolonged synth stream or an out-of-control saxophone section or deliberate ukulele finger-plucks.

Tracks like “Riotriot” or “You Yes You” have torn apart features that manipulate the overall vibes of the songs, like the song is getting ripped apart at the seams just to be sewn back together again, but in a completely different way.

Each song on the album is entirely different from start to finish because of Garbus’ ability to play with her voice and instruments.

The patchwork nature of tUnE-yArDs’ work wipes away any previous notion about what music should sound like.

Garbus has fun with the bare-boned sounds that actually make music happen.

“Whokill” is a melting pot of sounds Garbus has picked up from all over the world.

In one song, she can strike a rocking, belting gospel stride and quickly drop it low to a hushed hum, like in the track, “Doorstep,” or put an island or tribal vibe to her more straight forward singing.

Some rap and scatting are both peppered throughout the album.

Garbus has some serious soul in her screaming delivery and harmonizes it with her vocal loops, best demonstrated by the track, “Bizness.”

This is a mainstream Afro-pop song that could blow down a whole village with Garbus’ vocal imitation of bubbles and pops and fierce attack on the penetrating chorus.

Garbus has a commanding and confident stroke in her voice that gives weight to even the song called “Gangsta,” where she creates a believable siren sound with only her vocals.

“Whokill” is incentive enough to listen to the album, but the additional genre-defying instrumentation and alluring musical experimentation, as well as the energetic rhythms of Garbus’ one-woman bass drum beating section, makes “Whokill” an irresistible listen.

THERESA PFISTER

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