by Gerry Mak in New Music on Wednesday 20 January 2010

Some have decried the DIY production on tUnE-yArDs’ debut album, BiRd-BrAiNs — the voice recorder on which sole band member Merrill Garbus records all the samples, sounds, and instruments that compose each song often blows out and clips. But the very point of this aesthetic is to highlight the capabilities that musicians, equipped with only the most basic and readily available technology, now have. Whereas previous generations of self-recorded basement artists could only layer a handful of tracks at a time (with much poorer sound quality, I might add), anyone with a computer and an internet connection to download free sound-editing software can now manipulate as many tracks as they want — Garbus uses this to great effect, incorporating strings, drums, ukelele, multiple vocal lines, and ambient sound samples (a laughing child, distant conversations, clanging bottles, and random creaking and clattering) into a catchy, evocative, folk-pop record. The imperfections only add to the charm of Garbus’ unpretentious and wonderfully textured music.