Novel music or better off as a character in a novel about trash munching in America? You tell me.
by Hannah Golightly
By recommendation of The Guardian I find myself listening to tUnE-yArDs for the first time. [Not via Collapse Board then?! – affronted Ed.] The article made me curious (and bored) enough to have a nose at her MySpace profile. I think her music is OK so far … but a part of me wishes that I had never listened to her music at all and instead, had a novelist write about her character and extend the story outlined in the article for me – because on paper she’s fascinating. The poster girl for Eating Out Of Trash Can adventures across the United States. Not to mention a new take on the Starving Artist Out Of The Gutter And Into The Limelight (if her star’s trajectory is to be assumed).
OK, so I am now up to song three on MySpace stand alone player and things have picked up and the Experimental has given way to the Positive Result. They are not the song names by the way. That’s just my opinions so far. It started off with a yodel … Yeah, exactly. Hard to pull off? Or just plain hard to listen to? If I hadn’t begun writing this and was therefore occupied by alternative means, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t have got through as many minutes of tUnE-yArDs’ music as I have. But then that would have been an unknown loss for me if I had simply played her first song to be entertained and had been given that God awful first 10 seconds of yodel/collage/noise. Was it intended as a guard dog on her music?? Only the faithful, pure of heart and willing may enter here and if they pass the test and overcome the guard dog, then they can stay in paradise? Well I will back up there one word and retrieve that comparison of her music to Paradise. It’s not, but it is deffo a place worth visiting … just swerve that yodelling-intro’ed song ‘Hatari’ unless you have no taste or a yodelling fetish, in which case, be my guest: each to there own, enjoy! Or better yet, begin with ‘Fiya’ and work back to ‘Hatari’ if you like your first impression. They do count after all.
Just to let you know, I am not reviewing or critiquing tUnE-yArDs’ album or single or merchandise (if such a thing even exists), nope, I am giving a simple impression about tUnE-yArDs in general. If you are interested in more, you will have to figure out albums and stuff like that yourself. Give you a clue though: her home recording first album is called Bird-Brains and her follow up studio album made in an all mod con recording studio (a new experience for her) is called WhoKill and will be available some time in April.
To me, the story goes a little something like this: Merrill Garbus had a dream of making music after a narrow escape from a life of crime as a direct result of being raised by Hippies somewhere on one side of the United States. Since Merrill was not good at crime and had failed her crime exams at the local community college, there was only one career left open to her, given her upbringing and geographic situation.
And so it came to pass that Merrill Garbus, the hippie child and law abider first started out across America hitchhiking her way to meet up with a guy who once upon a time made a telephone call to her family home and requested a band-mate for his new ultra-chic alt rock kitchen band. On arrival on the Other Side of America Merrill stepped out of the pick-up truck that had picked her up somewhere on Highway 48 and thanked the driver. Gathering her small rucksack (a relic of 70s modern fibre fabrics and zips) and her ukulele, Merrill took in the face of the Man on the Telephone of her dreams. He held the key to her future in the palm of his hand and she knew it was important to get acquainted with this character as soon as possible. One of her mother’s hippie friends had given a talk in their garden about how sex was the best way to get to know a person. She hadn’t been listening of course, but she had picked up things here and there whether she meant to or not. So while greeting Mr Telephone outside one of the bars on Main, she eyed up his potential and found none. It was clear from that moment that there was no personal chemistry, not that this implied any lack of charm on either side.
Suffice to say that Chapter Two goes on to describe the nail-chewing and law-abiding starvation diet until the first of several bright ideas pops into Merrill’s head: the first being, eating out of dumpsters at the back of the Seven 11. Bright idea number two is picking up a loop pedal and starting work minus the help of Mr Telephone.
Chapter Three brings the reader up to speed with the challenges of being a one-woman band on a strict no work no pay budget and surviving.
Chapter Four is all about the emergence of sound, style and make do and mend philosophy.
Chapter Five captures the highs and lows of lo-fi solo gigging and the story behind the name tUnE-yArDs that Merrill began becoming known as.
Chapter Six tells the story of tUnE-yArDs’ first LP recorded on a crappy Dictaphone in the basement of Mr Telephone’s town house.
Chapters Seven through Ten relate the events that led to tUnE-yArDs jumping onto the good ship music business (as a stowaway, naturally).
Chapter Eleven narrates tUnE-yArDs highs and lows at high end low-fi loop buzz and the coming about of her elevation to studio recording artist when all the G’s start to flow in and she can afford to buy coffee and lunch and tip waitresses. It covers the dos and don’ts pearls from the horse’s mouth on the subject of kitchen-cabinet percussion issues when recording professionally for the first time.
Chapter Twelve is to remain a mystery as is the rest of the book so as not to spoil it.
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