EWR2 –The Broken Blackbird Ensemble – Gadzooks! – Reviews


Losing Today Magazine

Is it right to call an album so eerily strange scrumptious? I do worry about minor details like that, the mere fact that the things I find that make go all loose limbed and fuzzy are the type of CDs that most would consider specialist or at very least stuff for personal listening space only.


The second release from the Sheffield based label Early Winter Recordings follows perfectly in the fine tradition established by last year’s limited release by head honcho James Green (‘Tempers’). Green as you may or may not be aware is a member of Pickled Egg records all stars Big Eyes who to date themselves have delighted (I dare say confused in equal measure) the listening public at large with some delightfully memorable wide screened noire-ish Morricone like scores over the course of several albums and a handful of tasty 7’’s.


For this the debut outing for The Broken Blackbird Ensemble, Green is joined by various members of Hot Snack, Bingo Jesus, Evil Me, Tashbain and of course Big Eyes, adventurous in its design and aim it seeks to construct a collection of recordings without any notional lip service to a given defined structure or indeed a pre planned framework. With only snippets of musical pieces to work around The Broken Blackbird Ensemble is a true to form musical collective where each of the players have an equal input / say / viewpoint.


Ultra limited to just 250 copies each housed in a hand made lino printed sleeve (and yes it does look wonderful) these twelve recordings (with the exception of two live renditions ‘Great Mu’ and ‘the feeling of not coming back’ taken from an appearance at the Grapes, Sheffield) were recorded and improvised to some degree in one day way back last autumn, described as experimental - and before you all start getting twitchy, groaning and having your brow inquisitively dancing as if to say ‘yea right?’ - be warned this is a fairly smart release, that okay takes time to get beneath your skin but ultimately does have its rewards. Perhaps best filed alongside Set Fire to Flames, the more abstract elements of Volcano the Bear’s back catalogue (especially on the decided monastic serenity of ‘the Scaley Protectors’), Vivahead, early Constellation releases (check out the epic wide screened swoon of ‘The feeling of not coming back’ that closes the album - very early Godspeed in terms of intensity, drama and richness) and in spirit Stockhausen ‘Gadzooks!’ is curiously beguiling. Here you’ll meet all manner of shadowy figurines, a rusty symphony of sorts that despite its ad hoc approach sounds strangely cohesive albeit eerily.


‘Gadzooks’ will not disappoint fans of Big Eyes imagine it if you like as an abstract incarnation, here you’ll find all manner of subtly unsettling back drops part reminiscent of those old weirdly worrying Eastern animations of the 70’s, part gothic horror of the psychological kind where the suspense and fear is brought about by not what you see but by what you don’t see, vaguely Middle Eastern tablatures (as on the mantra like ‘Bambino’) and most curious of all droning psyche folk accents. All this tripped off with a noire-ish cloak. Suggesting an art rock pedigree fans of Cutler and Co may well warm to the ominous minimalism that looms about Gadzooks! especially on ‘Spittoon / Rickety Chair’ with its collage of detuned strings and creaks suggesting at times a healthy dose of WD40 would be the order of the day. Though minimalist in context it is not for a second skeletal, though interspersed with moments of dead air, the silence is utilised as an additional instrument. The funereal ‘Lady of the Leaf’ makes a passing nod to Bablicon within its almost sombre demeanour an awkward celebratory optimism beams while ‘Gadzooks Pt2’ has a distinctly hallucinogenic aboriginal texture to it. When ‘Gadzooks!’ comes together for its most lucid moments you get haunting gems such as the restless viola led ‘In a kingdom hole’ and the genteel lull of the bowed cymbals that serenade the elegantly drawn hymnal like ‘green clogs’. ‘Gadzooks!’ fair point might be a matter of taste, but it is a taste well worth acquiring.


Plan B Magazine

Inside a gorgeous sleeve lurks a piece of very English free music, anchored by swathes and knots of harmony and punctuated with numerous pauses. Cellos and pipes and bowed cymbals and guitars nuzzle against each other like friendly beasts: at no point does technique override instinct. Their loveliness is in itself radical, dispensing with the idea that improvised music is ‘difficult’ to make and listen to. And when not free-forming, The Broken Blackbird Ensemble’s folk-rock frenzies (‘Lady of the Leaf’) are righteous and rousing, witchy and possessed. String-led pieces like ‘Green Clogs’ evoke a kind of odd, homespun, peace-with-intent that quickens your tired heart out of its droning depths.


So close your eyes again: think of the Shaker movement’s first emissaries to America, seeing angels in the forests of the New World; trancing out in the fields. Think, labours of love.


The Unbroken Circle website

From the UK The Broken Blackbird Ensemble have emerged on 'Gadzooks!' with a sound that is like a hushed soundtrack to a late night ghost film, cellos creaks, pianos play spectral notes, disembodied guitars pluck lonesome melodies. It is music outside genres and listening to it at one in the morning it seems somehow apposite as moths flutter around the lightbulb. It's closest contemporary would be the improvised acoustic experiments from The Jewelled Antler Collective in their Thuja guise. But really this occupies an eerie, uncanny realm all of it's own. An unexpected delight but definitely music to listen to with the lights on. Muffled sounds of movement sit behind the music, the dragging of a corpse or the knocking of the loft dwellers? It is excellently done and different to almost anything else. It's last track 'The Feeling Of Not Coming Back' puts a chill up the spine. You may not get to listen twice so go to