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Uncanny Valley

Birds of Avalon

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Album Review

North Carolina eccentrics Birds of Avalon haven't turned their back on the vintage hard rock influences that dominated their debut album, Bazaar Bazaar, but their interest in prog rock and psychedelia has certainly evolved in an interesting way during the two years that separated their first full-length and 2009's Uncanny Valley. Guitarists Cheetie Kumar and Paul Siler obviously know how to conjure up a big wall of '70s style guitar raunch, and drummer Scott Nurkin calls up some furious beats on Uncanny Valley, but the songcraft supported by the band's swagger isn't nearly as straightforward this time out. Once you make it past the brief opening salvo, the first half of Uncanny Valley seems relatively coherent, and "Your Downtime Is Up" and "Side Two" wouldn't have sounded too far out of place on some free-form FM radio station during the Golden Age of Reefer-Powered Broadcasting. But the second act finds Birds of Avalon drifting into a dense fog of improvised audio verite, crunchy guitars, low-budget effects magic, and lysergic unpredictability on numbers like "Micro-Infinity," "Peregrinations," and "Last Rites (Funky Slide)," while "Spirit Lawyer" and "Student Teaching" sound both trippy and urgent in their tightly interwoven guitar patterns, with kinetic rhythm patterns and lyrics that seem to borrow from dystopic science fiction like Hawkwind and Michael Moorcock never met. Birds of Avalon recorded most of Uncanny Valley on an old 16-track analog setup temporarily installed in their rehearsal space, and they clearly used the freedom to delve into the more esoteric side of their musical imagination; if this music wanders off into the Lost World more than once, that's also a certain part of this album's charm, though there's just enough dead air that it would have helped if they'd had a producer on hand to guide them through the songs, even though the final product runs less than 32 minutes. After all, no matter how fascinating an acid trip can be, someone else's is never as interesting as your own.

Biography

Formed: 2005 in Raleigh, NC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Birds of Avalon are a gutsy indie rock affair with a psychedelic sheen; their sound, rooted in old-school album-oriented rock, favors comparisons to punchiness and the greasy, retro vibe of bands like Wolfmother, the Evangelicals, and the Sword. The band formed in Raleigh, NC, soon after Cherry Valence members Cheetie Kumar and Paul Siler got married and quit their band. They teamed up with Craig Tilley, drummer Scott Nurkin, and bassist David Mueller, wrote a passel of songs, and had their debut...
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Uncanny Valley, Birds of Avalon
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