Sometimes good things come from hardship ordoes one have to suffer to make good art?
Rare Birds, by Chicago's Dovecote, was born from tragedy - not the loss of a parent, or a beloved pet, but rather, the death of a hard drive - a hard drive containing all of Peter Castaldo's songs and sketches. Anyone who's lost a journal or a sketchbook knows this pain, but instead of curling up in a fetal position and shutting down Castaldo, the main man behind Dovecote, chose to step up and get busy, recording Rare Birds in a hurry, using only Garage Band and a Blue Nessie Microphone.
Rare Birds is a fuzzy, blurry, impressionistic affair described by Castaldo as "guitar rock with some fuzzy funk and blues influence." The closest sonic signifiers would be the first three Beck records - One Foot In The Grave, Mellow Gold and Odelay - as well as the quirky, homespun world of Ween, not to mention the scores and scads of reverb-laden, distorted bedroom cassette heroes that populated the 2000s.
Rare Birds features a rather murky sound quality, which Castaldo recommends overcoming with "loud volume through good speakers, or headphones" (naturlich). But instead of detracting from the overall feel, the lo-fi actually lends itself to this record's charms. This is weird music to be sure - full of soaring falsetto funk, like The Bee Gees covering Prince ("Candytown"), crazy drum breaks run through a Jell-O lens ("Step On Your Face") and almost sinister, but still peaceful, ambience ("Interlude"). It all adds up to form an intimate look into Castaldo's world and creative process.
Perhaps it's just my reviewer's bias, but this personal touch, the sense of the artist's hand in a work of art, no matter how big or how small, is essential to a record's success. If an album seems like it's been run through focus groups and research panels, it seems bland, featureless and makes no impact. Whereas some horrible, lo-fidelity tape recording will seem chock full of mystery and intrigue, and I'll practically beg to buy a copy. It's one of the interesting contradictions of these modern times.
Also, as a creative person myself, I understand all too well the perfectionism that digital art can bring, leading to countless hard drives of unused sketches and takes that never go anywhere. There is something to be said for the raw immediacy of having something to say, and a way to say it. In the long run, that hard drive death could be the best thing to ever happen to Castaldo.
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