Concert Reviews

Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk, Yellow Elephant and Married in Berdichev at Rhinoceropolis

Photo: Tom Murphy

Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk w/Yellow Elephant and Married in Berdichev
Saturday, November 29th, 2008
Better Than:
Seeing well-established bands in a less idealistic setting.

As a relatively new, experimental band, Yellow Elephant is still working out its kinks and inconsistencies, but this show was one where things came together well. The set started with electro-metallic drums and minimal keyboard atmospherics weaving into a sonic tapestry of plaintive vocals, gentle plucks of the harp and what can best be described as the electronic analog to the sound made by water droplets condensing at the hood of a stove and dropping intermittently onto a hot, greasy pan.
Each member of the band wore what looked like smears of day-glo pink, yellow and red on their faces like they had marked themselves as a small tribe or cult. Other songs incorporated industrial dance beats, reverse delay drones that warped like heat waves off pavement and synthesized emulations of crystal chimes and the striking of bottles filled at various levels. This is one of the few bands I get to see semi-regularly that stir my imagination with imagery and feeling fused together. I often wonder if a great deal of this music came out of long stretches in relative seclusion where the only way to stay sane is to engage in creative activities rather than acts of self-destruction.

Photo: Tom Murphy

Brittany Gould was draped in a string of small Christmas lights during the first part of her set as Married in Berdichev. As usual of late, Gould's music is a stirring symphony of loops she creates with her voice and organic percussion, all molded into fantastical shapes. Performing like the priestess of an ancient mystery cult, Gould proved in her short set that she has mastered the art of impromptu soundscaping. She closed her performance with a song from her first record with this project, a kind of inspired a cappella number gone psych-folk.

Photo: Tom Murphy

On tour from Lawrence, Kansas, Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk certainly surprised me with its heady and sonically expansive live show. The band is a three-piece, but you wouldn't have known it when the music started. The proceedings opened with a finely textured, deeply rhythmic strum on guitar, with the drums initially keeping things minimal. The act sounded a bit like My Bloody Valentine, with unmistakable elements of folk to take off any overblown edges.

I wondered why Baby Birds didn't have a bass player, but by the end of the first song, one of the guitarists had created a beautiful low-end drone that drove any such thoughts out of my mind. The second song featured streaming melodic leads inside insistent rhythms. The third number had drifty, weighty, intense passages that moved in slow motion, like rock music that whales had written. For the final song -- perhaps one blended into another -- the band created a blissed-out cacophony punctuated by emotionally charged vocals that chased away the orange ambient light against the cloudy sky outside, if only for a moment.
-- Tom Murphy

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I get to see some of the most cutting-edge and groundbreaking music at Rhinoceropolis all the time, and that's why I go as often as possible.
Random Detail: Ran into guitar wizard Joe Mendoza at the show.
By the Way: There is a nascent regional scene forming, and part of that was witnessed on this night.