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Poisonous Birds
We Can Never Not Be All Of Us Tom Coles , October 22nd, 2020 08:45

Bristol's Poisonous Birds weave layer upon layer of noises and ideas into one big, big sound, finds Tom Coles

Poisonous Birds stand on the shoulders of past Bristolian giants, writing delicate trip-hop in the vein of the West Country greats. Their approach is a little more ghostly; big synth swells and floaty high-pitched vocals swoop and trill over fragile soundscapes. Their psychedelic approach takes the orchestral swells of Massive Attack and transposes them to crescendos of warm, stuttering electronics.

A deep, throaty bass throb anchors these mercurial electronic elements, providing a base level for them to play off against the ghostly vocals without sounding scattered. The shimmering voices take the form of soft crooning, shivering through the tracks, soft and gooey, which offsets some of the weirder moments, holding everything from turning into a mess. That architectural sensibility also gives them scope to try out a huge range of different sounds, from sweeping textures and heavy bass thuds, to a swoosh of avian soundscapes. It's elegant and evocative, and every new idea adds something.

Poisonous Birds bare the faint trace of a rock band, but unlike post-rock's focus on textures there's more of a songwriter's sensibility to the architecture, building to crescendos and adjusting to the whims of the vocals. There's something of a guitar band here, but stringed instruments come second to the overlapping electronics. In doing so, they shift from Mogwai to nature documentary soundtracks. This has a fortunate effect; they're in keeping with the current zeitgeist, somewhere between lazy chillwave and Planet Earth binged in lockdown.

This delicate approach means they can inhabit in a variety of moods, introspective and reflexive. When the heavier moments hit, they don't sound claustrophobic, like metal does. A lot of what works conjures emotions centred around listless, weightless bliss; the soul gently drifting from the body rather than being ripped out. It's refreshing to hear something grand and evocative stripping the guitar layers but still dreaming big, taking a dramatic approach to music that's traditionally the realm of the guitar band. Ultimately though, Poisonous Birds take a lot to do a little; a pitch-perfect, out-of-body trip recalling some of the genre greats.