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If there is one thing the French are known for being extremely ruthless for, it is their passion for electronic music that goes across borders and languages. Birdy Nam Nam is no exception. From the get-go, there are a few things that separate Birdy from the seemingly endless supply of dubstep/techno/remix/anything electronic music these days.
The first being that they are a group of four guys; most electronic acts probably couldn’t conceive utilizing two or three DJs or a combination of DJ and another musician all at once. The way the four Birdies work so well together is the way they approach their instruments.
They do not simply toss a record onto a turntable and “scratch” (or as the French say it, faire du scratch) while juggling songs from time to time. Each member of the band has years of experience DJing without using the aid of computers or digital tools. They even won the DMC World DJ Championships in 2002. Each member present on stage is playing a different role of the traditional band.
In Birdy’s case, playing in a band without traditional instruments has freed them of typical song structure, melodies, and writing. Their newest album, Defiant Order, is no exception, and it’s not a record to be taken lightly.
Defiant Order sounds like a cohesive instrumental piece that flows seamlessly from one song to another. The opening track, “Jaded Future,” sounds like an intro. It starts with what sounds like a digitally altered sampled horn. One can hear where the scratching is, and one can tell it’s hand-crafted to hold down the energy of the song. A few bars later, the rest of the guys come through with the percussion, skewed vocal melodies and the hook, just like a normal band would.
The same format is applied to most of the other songs on the album. One can dissect it by listening to when certain instruments come in and out. Each song starts with one sample that is used as the building point. It isn’t a rhythmic sample or melodic sample: it’s between that, so each member can play with poly-rythms, alternate melodies and time signatures. This human approach is what makes their music so different. It isn’t locked into predictable and over-used time signatures or generic beats. However, this gets tired when trying to listen to the record in one sitting. It doesn’t get boring, but the concept does not get challenged or changed throughout the whole album.
Defiant Order, at the end of the day, is a giant wall of bass, drums, and anything and everything else being thrown at the listener at once. The songs that stick out the most are the ones with vocal samples because they ground the listener into the song, reminding them that there are humans using computers to make these sounds. That also gives them a more personal feel.
Whether the samples are glitched out and processed to sound shimmery and chopped up, or whether they are just lifted as-is, it works well. Defiant Order serves its purpose as music to dance and not pay attention to, and on that level, it’s great. However, listening to the album attentively gets repetitive and almost annoying, but you have to remember that these men are professional performers who bring life to electronic music. That human touch always connects with fans at a live show where their true talent, passion and energy for performing can be displayed full-blast.
Birdy Nam Nam – Defiant Order Tracklist:
- “Jaded Future”
- “Defiant Order”
- “Written in the Sand”
- “Cadillac Dreams”
- “Big City Knights”
- “Goin’ In”
- “(The Golden Era) Of El Cobra Discoteca”
- “The Plan”
- “Melancholy at the Sports Bar”
- “Black Bird Cloud”