Album Reviews

Rairbirds – Rairbirds Vol 1

(One Little Indian) UK release date: 27 August 2007

It’s not easy to get a fresh take on dance music,but with this self-titled album it looks likeRairbirds have come close to achieving it. In doingthat they occasionally overreach in their ambition,but it’s a relatively small price for the listener topay.

Quite apart from the first impressions of thestriking artwork from Lucy Vigrass, which blossoms inthe booklet, the opening salvo is daring in its scope.The Rairbirds sing – briefly – and an atmospheric,chromatic string line builds.

“I am out of my eyes”, sings Kubb frontmanHarry Collier, the tension builds, and thebeats are prepared. When they finally drop the effectis thrilling, an updated big beat that makes theexhortation “blow wind blow” a powerful one.

After this hugely affirmative start comes Unknown,a curate’s egg of a track that lasts far longer thanit ought, with a decidedly weird central section whereit sounds like Just Jack has wandered intoHaight Street, got confused, and left again. All thisafter a decidedly funky brass section have punched outa memorable riff.

You get the picture – it’s never dull. But part ofthe accusation of over ambitious writing can beleveled at the choice of personnel for the album. TheSlovak Radio Symphony Orchestra are here, withthe arrangements secured by vocalist JamieCrowe. It’s thrilling stuff at times, with Crowe’sorchestration full of vivid moments, but occasionallythe juxtaposition of styles is just too crude.

Tigerag is fantastically wide open in its initialoutreach, but soon had me reminiscing, not at allfondly, of the horror that was Rednex andCotton Eyed Joe. Even the thought of that brought meout in a cold sweat, so for that Rairbirds shouldreceive a caution from the musical police.

Yet they should be let off just as quickly with afriendly warning, as this record has much to commendit in the way it refuses to be tied down and allocatedits own genre. Certainly it’s a world away from Croweand Elton’s previous efforts as funky rockersRootjoose.

They’ve moved on since then for sure, and throwneverything at this venture on a brave voyage ofstylistic discovery. When it works the results arestartling, and when it doesn’t the brain goes intomeltdown. Not an unconditional success then – but aproject well worth stopping to examine.

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Rairbirds – Rairbirds Vol 1