Looks at the Bird

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On its third release, Brokeback brings the quiet. While Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen contribute their exquisite vocals to a few tracks, they're mostly of the wordless sort, used more for spice or texture than as a main ingredient. One of those numbers, "In the Reeds," could almost be mistaken for an outtake from the bossa nova landmark Getz/Gilberto featuring the similarly angelic-sounding Astrud Gilberto. Looks at the Bird is an otherwise instrumental affair with a few jazzy touches here and there. Sometimes it sounds like Ennio Morricone, sometimes the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Mostly it sounds like its own thing. Although six-string bass guitarist Douglas McCombs has played with Chicago's Eleventh Dream Day and Pullman, Bird sounds more like the work of Tortoise, another post-rock combo with which he's been associated. Brokeback, in the person of McCombs and upright bassist Noel Kupersmith, even takes on Tortoise's "The Suspension Bridge at Iguazú Falls," as well as Walter Schumann's "Pearl's Dream" from Charles Laughton's moody masterpiece The Night of the Hunter. The latter concludes the album and features a lovely vocal from Hansen. It's a fitting testament to the singer, who perished in a traffic accident in late 2002.

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