Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Josh Birdsong - Simple Geometry

Produced by Stephen Leiweke at Yackland Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Josh Birdsong’s debut EP Simple Geometry contains five songs that, if nothing else, illustrate what sort of genre chameleon Birdsong is. Three of the album’s five cuts are shrouded in ambient textures – delays, reverb applied to his guitar, and an echo surrounded the other instrumentation – that are quite atmospheric without ever sounding gratuitous. The other two songs are obviously slanted towards a much more singer/songwriter dominated ethos – acoustic guitar figures into both songs and the delay and reverb defining so much of the EP’s sound disappears in favor of a much cleaner, organic approach. Birdsong never adopts a dull tempo – excepting the final song, Simple Geometry makes much of its reputation based on its willingness to subvert, even slightly, the audience’s expectations. It does a fantastic job of doing so without ever losing the pulse that first drove Birdsong to sing and create. 

 “Unspeakable” opens the album with a substantial taste of Birdsong’s considered and eloquent guitar playing.  The warm delay and reverb applied to Birdsong’s guitar never distracts from the beauty of his phrasing. His vocal phrasing is equally appealing – he tightly tailors his singing to the arrangement and the lyrical quality is highlighted by his deliberate approach. The song makes much of its impact through a slow build. Percussion slowly comes into play rather than immediately announcing itself and, by song’s conclusion, is every bit as much a part of the musical tapestry as Birdsong’s guitar or vocals. “Radio Waves” shows the same attention and care, but follows much of the same trajectory as well. The gradually mounting musical drama, however, has much more tension thanks to the dense clusters of notes Birdsong unleashes and creates through the use of delay. The obvious dreamlike feel of songs like this complements the lyrics and vocal delivery alike. Birdsong’s writing shows a significant talent for compelling metaphors and much of this track is built around the use of this literary device.  

The mood of the EP shifts some with “Drive”. The guitar presence is still strong, but Birdsong lays an acoustic guitar part underneath the top line electric that makes the attack much weightier than before. His vocal lacks a lot of the tension heard on the second song, but the lack of urgency is actually relatively welcome just for the change in color it provides. The tension returns with the penultimate song of the release, “Why?” It adopts much of the same approach of building the song and showing patience about bringing new sonic elements into the picture, but there’s no question that the song has a stronger push than the first two tracks despite their similarities in composition and sound. The final song, “You and I”, goes in a completely different direction. The trickery and manipulation fall away leaving listeners with nothing beyond Birdsong’s beautiful voice and steady acoustic guitar. The intimacy of the performance is impressive and it brings Simple Geometry to the ending it deserves.  

9 out of 10 stars.

Joshua Stryde

No comments:

Post a Comment