Before Amrit headed out to see Beirut at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg the other night, we knew to be on the watch for Merrill Garbus, aka tUnE-YaRdS, which is why he showed up early with a notebook. On record, Garbus’s one-woman DIY workshop concocts an impressively assured sort of lo-fi World (as in World Music) pop world (as in her own secret territory) by mixing tenor ukulele, digital loops, toms, and (most importantly) a powerful, shape-shifting voice. (At her MySpace she writes that her catalog was recorded with a Sony digital voice recorder and tracked in Audacity.) At times, she’s a self-contained Sublime Frequencies compilation, jumping between blues, African tunes, shiny reggae-esque sprawls, and lo-fi folk. Live? As previously noted:
By the end of the set she had six similarly face-painted people with her, harmonizing to her beatboxing, baritone sax echoing her discordant arias, pounding syncopated skins while on stage (and the venue’s floor while off it).
Garbus self-released her debut Bird-Brains — hence the feathers — going the pay-what-you-want option. (It’ll be reissued in later this year on vinyl by Marriage Records.) As an introduction, take a listen to her “Sunlight”:
tUnE-YaRdS – “Sunlight” (MP3)
There’s contemporary work to be heard in her catalog (Dirty Projectors, the Blow), but these are Influences listed at her MySpace:
Woody Guthrie. Woody Guthrie. Woody. Guthrie. Bertholt Brecht, Ruth Garbus, Charlie Chaplin. Hukwe Zawose, Bread & Puppet, cassette tape mixes, Roy Hart Theater. Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis. Free to Be…You and Me.
You can download the record (for a price of your choosing) at tuneyards.com. It’s available until 3/10. After that, start looking for the vinyl version on Marriage (or the cassettes she made to bring on tour with her). If you aren’t convinced, go to her MySpace and check out “Hatari.”