The Bird School of Being Human is the new album from Woodpecker Williams, out on 10th September on Robot Elephant Records.
The album is both challenging and comforting, bonkers and beautiful. It all starts off innocuous enough, with Gemma Williams (you didn’t think Woodpecker Wooliams was her real name did you?) proving that Brighton can match Joanna Newsome for quirky harpists. The first sign of discontent is at the end of opener Red Kite, where things break down a bit, but Gull brings back the strumming.
But then we have the new single Sparrow, and everything’s changed. The harps have gone. There’s wonky chopped up keyboards, and lots of reverb all across the vocals. Magpie has acoustic guitars and a queasy drone, and by the time we get to Crow (which got picked for the cover cd of this month’s Uncut), things get really messy and distorted. I’m sure I’ve had nightmares which have sounded like this. Which is kind of a compliment – in that to actually capture the creeping fear and paranoia is quite a feat.
Then our palates are cleansed with Dove, as Gemma reminds us that there is beauty in the world. The harps swirl again, but this time recalling some of Bjork’s quieter moments from Vespertine. Finally the record closes with Hummingbird, the album’s triumphant moment. It builds slowly from a choir-like intro, then halfway through things pick up, vocals get looped, latin drums kick off, and the vocals are joined by trumpets and party blowers.
Less than half an hour after we started, the album’s done. You’ll want to listen to on repeat to go through all those emotions again and again, and I can guarantee you won’t hear anything quite like it this year. Sparrow is out as a single next Monday with remixes from Marcus Hamblett, Becky Becky and 182 Productions, and the album launch is at Saint Andrew’s Church on Saturday 8th September. You can pre-order the album from the Robot Elephant Website.