Without language, without the normal means of communication, especially when it comes to music, a world of expression can open up. The artist is forced to channel all he has to say with suddenly so little. Without words in music, you are left with the marrow of the idea; the bare-boned nature of sound that listeners are left to decipher on their own. Winston-Salem musician Eddie Garcia, who performs under the name 1970s Film Stock, examines such ideas in his latest record Birds, released on Aug. 11.
There is a lingering urgency, linked hand in hand with a mournful pensiveness that stretch across the seven songs of Garcia’s second album. Known for his unique use of effects pedals and intricately looped melodies, Garcia has created an iconoclastic sound, abandoning the ideas of norms when it comes to his music.
In the same vein as Garcia’s previous album, Birds is devoid of lyrics and backing instruments, but contains a congruent linear flow across the record. The title track opens the album like a preface of a novel, and melodies slowly building atop on another, sprinkling specifically placed riffs in the background like voices calling on a muse.
As the album progresses, a trapped feeling comes through the music, surfacing ever so gently. A yearning sensation of restlessness with nowhere to go. The songs build upon each other, not in any clear sense of the term, but rather like a meditation. One thought comes through the music, then branches off into another direction, and then another, until each melody has become its own branch from the same tree from which it came.
While the album opens with somewhat inspiring tracks, as if like a call to adventure, the songs only break against such a release, ebbing back with aptly named titles such as “We’re Not Going Anywhere” and “Walk Away.” Garcia uses his improvisatory talents for many of these songs, even when recording. The last couple tracks sit on their own as reclusive melodies, turning over a blend of shoegaze and ambient chords that — while sounding beautiful on the surface — contain punchy, dissonant notes that flash like alarms, holding the urgency in place.
Although Garcia has taken on an ambitious task of examining deep realms of experimental music, each song holds a build that the listener follows with hopeful ears, and yet each track only calms just as the storm is about to break, never fully releasing into the necessary pinnacle which was promised in the music. Perhaps the fact that the album is only seven songs long saves its from slipping into the deadly realm of the boring and monotonous. The subtlety of each track becomes more and more like a concept album with each listen. And although Garcia has broken these songs open, revealing the skeletal structure of each track or looming melody, the meat and flavor arrive not with a great moment, but in the subtle changes and shifts in melody, bringing the listener full circle to a lonely meditation of sound.
The stir and churning sensations created at the album’s start culminate in the final track, “Victory Repeating.” While one guitar holds down the droning, looping riff, a wailing cry bursts from under the surface, like a being coming up for a great life-giving breath. It is a glimpse at the breaking free and flight that the album dances around for its entirety. It calls back to previous songs and guitarwork, not smoothing the rough surface, but rather churning it even more. The longing to take flight remains present, even until the last notes, never fully spreading its wings, but bringing redemption just the same.
The beauty of Birds comes in a skeletal design of continuous building, while in the end, the direction the listener perhaps thought was coming arrives only in a quiet, suppressed manner. It is a splendid examination of the sound and fury that begin as a simple notion, slowly exploding into a burst of flames. The ideas behind the music are accomplished without words, without driving rhythms and the variance of different instruments.
As simply and beautifully as the album opens, so does it come to a fading end. Like a great story arc, the album moves forward with subtle highs and lows, ending just as anxious and beautiful as it began, forcing listeners to immediately press play on the opening track once more. Ambitiously, Birds sets out to explore uncharted realms of music, and it accomplishes just that, with a simplicity that is enough to call a listener to come and join in the expedition.