Burd Early

Burd Early's Observatory EP

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The last of the first batch of releases from Chicago's King Crab label, and such an eclectic bunch it is: First there is Warren Ellis' wonderfully textured 3 Pieces for Violin, then the strange folk world of Nate Denver, and now the impressionistic songwriting works of Burd Early. New York City resident Early has issued two full-length albums before Observatory, but neither of them touches the spare majesty of these poetic, melancholy rootsy songs. One can hear the melodic sensibilities of Richard Buckner in "A Distant Object," with its deep wish to be somewhere else other than where the protagonist is. In the opener, "Drizzle," we hear the shifting landscape of moments between raindrops. It feels like Townes Van Zandt's eternal state of having his body in one place and his spirit in another. "Cold Patters" is an exercise in sleepy, jazzy, blues-oriented swing. But it's so slow it feels like Early drank a bottle of codeine to get his words to fall out of his mouth that way. It's hauntingly beautiful and airy, but it's so drugged out you have to listen more than once to get the entire picture of the song. And even then, it bleeds beyond its frames. The set closes with the organ drone on "Wow," a single chord, played out, pulsing and droning before a short series of chords comes in to cover the melody: "I've seen the moon/rise/over water/And I've seen the moon/set itself/drown itself/in the water/Search for signs/of human life/across the street/to the graveyard/there's a freshness there/and the wind in the hair/on my head...." And as these cryptic lyrics unfold into a panoply of acoustic and electric guitars, layered keyboards, and slide, the vocal arrives and disappears like that same wind. Eventually, even more sounds are added, a backing vocal, the organ plays recitative phrases and glissandi. And it all becomes a round of one syllable, one circulating series of notes touching and glancing off each other into the ether; it leaves the listener, for many moments after the songs disappears into the silence, changed, if only a little, for what she has just heard. Can there be any better endorsement than that?