Nick Krueger is a very prolific musician, varying from moody rock to ambient, from avantgarde…to black-metal. Despite taking a different stylistic direction at every new record, the only purpose is to serve the music and nothing else. At this round, he shakes hands with Ben Levin in order to refresh both music and aesthetics through the talent and the animation of the latter, which probably provided the birds of the title.
Reading the tracks, the record seems a tribute to both real-world objects and videogame stuff: for example, Wizard Worm could refer to the biological process or a character from a popular role-playing game, the Octopus Babies are present in the horror franchise Dead Space, A Punch Guy is a memory from the NES era and so on. At the same time, the lyrics are a bit disturbing and misleading regards to the first impression. Let’s see it track by track.
Wizard Worm seems a faded out memory from a distant past. A dramatic piano melody is weirdly tuned like a really old-fashioned instrument, and then the first glitches appear, like videogame bugs, to distort the sound and making it creepier.
The Legend of the Cold Car is the first single, animated by Ben Levin using square ducks that travel and meet each other in a dark, atmospheric urban background. A syncopated bass paves the way where pads put their roots, forging the soundscape for an apparently sweet song. But the narrator speaks like he’s the corpse in a refrigerated cell of the Cold Car (…” Cradled in your car and passing out, you touched my neck and wrote a number down.”). The fragmented vocal lines that double the melody in the refrain makes the piece even more splintered.
A Punch Guy gives the same impression as if who sings is describing a third-person own death experience: “Is that me?“. Here the contrast between the music and the lyrics is even stronger, from the bare hearing seems a sort of background vlog music a little bit glitched, and instead what you get is a haunting feeling, no matter how simple and catchy is the tune.
The Knights of Duloxetine is an hommage to the eighties, sounding like a Christmas tv film with all the funky beats and the sparkling keyboards, but the darkness is always present. Nonetheless, Duloxetine helps to heal depressive disorders. Just like the depression is a form of freedom, the disturbed person is only gonna take meds when he’s untied. The outro of the track is a long B 4th chord with a Lydian mood given by the sharp 4th note, sounding like a total abandon to depression.
Octopus Babies are for sure a creepy presence but they’re presented as if they’re innocent opponents in a Nintendo game, sounding like a NES midi soundtrack. As if there’s not enough reference to videogames, The Rare Blue Bell Pepper fits perfectly while exploring dungeons, using haunting scale grades like the flat 2nd and the flat 5th. Instead of staying a retro game, Pastel had its Remastered edition. The game itself tries to get a conscience and asks if it’s a living thing at all (“If I’m not living in pastel, am I even living?“).
If there’s underground lore going on under the tracks of the record, it’s detected by time references. It was 3 am in A Punch Guy, now it’s 5 AM. Your mind begins to get self-tricked by the lack of sleep, visions take form from the imagination and a synthetic waltz in 12/8 escorts you into realms of madness.
Wizard Worm II: Willie Wagtail’s revenge is complementary to the opening track, musically speaking. The nocturnal visions made the listener’s thoughts clearer at last: the secret place inside us that gives us boredom, anxiety, depression, and anger is evoked by silly minion voices and weirdly tuned piano. Like in a game, we all fight the inside ghosts like enemies in our favorite console, in order to reach the level that triggers the ending titles. In this case, the outro takes the title of Fountain and sounds more like a game over than a happy ever after, and slowly everything fades into a world of glitches, slowly turning off the game card.
Birds by Nick Krueger and Ben Levin is a really, really weird album. Sometimes it seems bland, sometimes sour, sometimes sweet, and there’s always that haunting feeling that everything is going to fade out and lose all the progress of this strangely beautiful game.
Written for you by Music Pills.
Previous related reviews:
About Nick Krueger:
About Music Pills: