Beware of the Bird
o to your favorite band on MySpace and check the third genre tag they’ve assigned themselves: usually it’s a clue or an admission (Panic! At the Disco: (we’re totally contemptuous of) techno; Akon: (no, really I’m hip-hop and R&B; first…OK, well, I guess you can just call it) pop). Claude VonStroke’s choice? Ghettotech. Put this one in the clue category. VonStroke doesn’t break out the sweaty pace or the porno lyrics. Instead, it’s all in the feeling: Beware of the Bird is electrohouse at its dirtiest.
That much is apparent from the intro that VonStroke provides: “Warming Up the Bass Machines” is a throwaway, an aural reminder to set your stereo EQ correctly. Its contents, however, are bowel-wrenching bass tones that squeal and whirr, reveling in their own filth. So, it’s almost a relief when the album’s first single, “Deep Throat” arrives and takes us to familiar planes. Almost. As you can tell from the video, things are never quite normal with a guy who presumably programs his beats in a bird suit.
Far from the assured Teutonic precision of most purveyors of electrohouse, VonStroke lives for the apropos-of-nothing chimp sound or the synth that approximates a whistle. Sure, the compositions have been worked over meticulously (this ain’t no Karat compilation), but like Akufen there is an amount of chaos that makes you feel out of control. In a genre that veers far too closely to tastefulness, this appearance of tousled hair is paramount and necessary.
After the Osborne-assisted “Eastern Market,” VonStroke takes a mid-album break—taking some time out to showcase three remixes and a don’t-look-now-it’s-1995-all-over-again downtempo live recording of “Lullabye.” Oh, and an original called “7 Seven Deadly Snakes” sandwiched in there somewhere too. Why? No idea. VonStroke’s original compositions are outstanding. And while his immense skill at corralling messes is admirable and sometimes transcendent (the “Cicada” remix), “Bullshit” is still bullshit.
But, hey, kinda unfocused and unable to settle on a genre or city to draw influence from? Sounds like a debut album to me. VonStroke may be using/aping ghettotech’s attitude, Get Physical’s synthesizers, Ibiza’s strict rules on how to construct a hit, and Sesame Street’s wardrobe department, but as a summation of his Dirtybird work over the last two years, Beware of the Bird is a hugely welcome document. So, you know, don’t look a gift bird (especially in cooked form) in the mouth.
Reviewed by: Nina Phillips
Reviewed on: 2006-12-13