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Birdfeeder - EP Review: The Vile Isle

24 Mar 2022 // A review by Callum Wagstaff
Led by keyboard player and songwriter Stephanie Cairns, Birdfeeder makes music for time travellers, tea leaf readers and full moon gazers. Their south seas art-pop is characterised by unearthly melodies, surprising shifts and vintage timbres. Birdfeeder was formed in 2019 by long-time friends and musical collaborators Stephanie Cairns, Josh Harris and Marley Mokomoko-Young.

This 5 track EP, The Vile Isle, is a counterpart to Birdfeeder’s cross-genre stage show The Veiled Isle. The Veiled Isle is conceived of as a live visual album, where Birdfeeder’s songs are animated by multi-layered shadow puppetry as the band plays behind a giant projection screen.

Even divorced from the live show, the EP is possessed of a certain theatricality. The vaudevillian bent of Ocean of Sand merges with a punkish cabaret flavour reminiscent of The Dresden Dolls. The recording sound, particularly on the drums, are like they're taken straight from the stage to your ears. Deep, acoustic drums feel unfiltered, like they're right next to you. The whole thing is wrapped in a sea shanty that descends into a spooky bridge with an alien solo.

That spooky timbre is a recurring feature in The Vile Isle and many of the songs have melodies full of half steps that pair well with instruments. Every song has a surprising turn in the bridge too; that's one of my favourite parts of the whole EP. Time Blind starts out sounding like it could be an ABBA song but descends sharply into a sinister middle part more reminiscent of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. The Vile Isle is the aural equivalent of riding the Ghost Train at the local fair: you're never far from a sharp, spooky surprise.

The theatrical style and live show connection gives this EP a strong "concept album" structural feel. The final track Rare Bird illustrates that best with the way it brings the mood down to a more sombre place with a slower tempo and feels like the narrative final word. The additional vocals, which have been sporting catchy counter melodies in Beware and interesting harmonies in EYKFITS up to this point come together in a pleasing bittersweet chorus here. Like the other songs, there is a left turn towards the end. The quirky time signature gives way to double time drums and then ends on a refrain that doesn't quite sound optimistic, but restful.

The last performance of the full live show was in late February. To my knowledge there aren't any more planned, but if you ever get a chance, experience this music within the context it was intended. It's very original and it sounds like a great soundtrack to a shadow puppet show. Check out Birdfeeder live.
Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Birdfeeder

Led by keyboard player and songwriter Stephanie Cairns, Birdfeeder makes music for time travellers, tea leaf readers and full moon gazers. Their south seas art-pop is characterised by unearthly melodies, surprising shifts and vintage timbres.

Birdfeeder was formed in 2019 by long time friends and musical collaborators Stephanie Cairns, Josh Harris and Marley Mokomoko-Young. They’ve released two singles with self-produced videos (Banana Boxes (2020) and The Long Haul (2021)) and a five track EP, The Vile Isle (2022).

Under The Radar describes Birdfeeder’s psychedelic art-pop sound as “...somewhere between / beyond Carnivorous Plant Society's instrumental flights of fantasy and Tidal Rave's lyrical musings.” Birdfeeder’s cross-genre stage show The Veiled Isle, a counterpart to The Vile Isle EP, has been performed at Loemis Festival (Wellington, 2021) and the NZ Fringe (Wellington, 2022). The Veiled Isle is best described as a live visual album with Birdfeeder’s music animated by large-scale shadow puppetry. Birdfeeder has also performed at Wellington’s Newtown Festival, the Performance Arcade, and indie festival Bush Bash.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Birdfeeder


The Vile Isle
Year: 2022
Type: EP

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