The Wind-Up Bird Whips

[Music Fellowship/Translucence; 2003]

Styles: ambient, ethereal post-rock, lulling drones
Others: Red Stars Theory, Dirty Three, RF, Windy and Carl, Sigur Ros

If you have ever watched the Montel Williams TV show, you are surely familiar with Sylvia Brown. A world renowned psychic and spiritual advisor, she often describes in great detail picturesque accounts of the near-death experience, as well as the alleged afterlife. Whips, the follow-up to The Wind-Up Bird's self-titled debut, could very well be the soundtrack for one's passing and the fate that one day awaits us all. While the album was not crafted with a death/life thematic element, saying that listening to the record is a metaphysical experience and a virtual trip out of one's body is certainly not too far fetched.

The album is split into two compositions that span the length of five and three tracks, respectively. Those that are unfamiliar with the musical styling of The Wind-Up Bird will definitely want to take notice to discover this highly unique and refined duo. Taking their name from the critically acclaimed Haruki Murakami novel "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," Joseph Grimm (formerly of 33.3) teams up once again with Jeff Smith (currently of Jerome's Dream) to blend and mix a variety of influences, including drone, indie rock, minimalism, electronica, and classical, into what becomes the perfect post-rock cocktail.

The Wind-Up Bird incorporates a variety of instrumentation into their compositions, which gives them a unique edge amongst many of their contemporaries. Throughout the recording, they make optimal use of such elements as computers, guitars, pedal steels, violins, keys, trumpets, and trombones. The songs themselves vary in nature as well. Some are extremely ambient and slow moving (think Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2), and others are a bit more daunting and disturbing (in a good way, of course) with lots of computer manipulations that achieve haunting effects. The fourth track, "This," is chilling when an answering machine message from a twenty-something female (one can only speculate this is a former girlfriend) is distorted, contorted, and twisted into new sonic dimensions. Throughout the distortion, the listener is subjected to her sorrowful, melancholic pleas, apologizing profusely for past wrongdoings and reaffirming her love for the subject. The Wind-Up Bird gives this ex-lover just what she deserves, a cold dose of electronic sound exploitation. Don't we all wish we could deal with past relationships in this highly constructive manner?

In the end, the soundscapes meander and merge into one another with the gentle grace of a fallen feather. We are left with a gorgeous musical tapestry that is woven with the finest thread, and the listener feels both relieved to have survived the experience and thankful to have been elevated to a totally new level of conscious awareness. If you're looking to do some long and hard introspective analysis or just want to enjoy the lulling sounds of music in a dark room at night, I can think of no better choice than Whips.

1. Sorry
2. That I've
3. Become
4. This
5. Monster
6. I Love
7. You
8. A Lot

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