Birdengine: Birdengine EP

As a child, Lawry Joseph Tilbury stole into the forests surrounding his home and, using a broken nylon guitar, a record player, and a couple of scratchy records, created ramshackle serenades to the woodland creatures and the moon. Though today an adult living in Brighton, he's never lost that idiosyncratic sensibility and now, rejecting computers and digital gear for the tape cassette, records under the name Birdengine uing a 4-track recorder, Dictaphones, home-made tape loops, and music boxes. What results are creaky compositions realized with decrepit instrumentation and steeped in scratchy hiss and rust, not so much from some other universe but from some other era. Still, the first thing one notices about this 12-inch-only release is the vinyl itself, a slab so thick it could repel cannon fire, though the focus shifts immediately the moment his surreal collages of mechanical noises and dusty keyboards rise like ghosts from the grooves.

“Headache (Days 3, 7 and 9)” perhaps best exemplifies his sound, with melismatic acoustic whorls coalescing into wavering melancholia. The dirge-like “She Needs More Memory” veers closest to a traditional electronic style with a weave of high-pitched melodies and guttural tones underlaid by curdling beats. The three remaining pieces pursue a more collage-oriented approach, with what sounds like a chainsaw roaring alongside minimal piano sprinkles in “What I Do Is Secret.” Carnival melodies rub shoulders with noisy blasts in “Let There Be Rope Tied Around Their Middles” while “Thoughts of a Falling Glass Man” combines hydraulic clanks, rapidly picked strings, and woozy orchestral samples in strange manner. Those looking for kindred spirits might imagine Birdengine as an eccentric third cousin to The Brothers Quay who likewise embrace a refreshingly ancient-modern coupling in films like Street of Crocodiles and Institute Benjamenta. (Speaking of visual imagery, a remarkable animated video of “Thoughts of a Falling Glass Man,” produced by Sherbet using considerably more current production methods, is available for viewing at the Benbecula site.)

November 2005