Living in the Information Overload Age isn’t always a bad thing. Possibilities arise simply because they synchronize (or juxtapose) in the rushing river of everyday data. Of course, we often miss them — even when they are right in front of us. Luckily, Merrill Garbus is watching closely. The Oakland-based musician, who works under the moniker Tune-Yards, seems remarkably attuned to the possibility and poetry of our age. And anyone who cares about modern music should be glad that she is.
“Whokill” is one of this year’s boldest, freshest creations: A pulsating quick-step that feels utterly contemporary, careening down a city street while the detritus of consumed influence trails from the car windows.
“Buckle up ’cause we’re gonna move fast,” Garbus sings, and indeed, this 10-track polyglot chop-up unspools dizzyingly. The opener, “My Country,” is a ripping, horn-peppered banger that echoes M.I.A.; the second, “Es-so,” is an irresistible, strung-out jazz-scat; and the third, “Gangsta,” tops them both: a fat bass line (Garbus worked closely with bassist Nate Brenner on the record) drills into a symphony of vocal tracks and spiraling, honking horns. The melody is a hypnotic chant, conjuring sirens and the ominous repeat dub of a King Tubby record. Headphones recommended.
While the disc doesn’t sustain that incredible pace, the slower, spacier tracks that follow are marvelously rich. Strains of Afropop and like-minded experimenters Dirty Projectors surface — alongside snatches of ukulele — while Garbus continues to chase her own melodies like a phantasm.
“Whokill” goes so far past the modest, homemade charms of Tune-Yards’ 2009 debut that it can’t be called an evolution. Instead, it sounds like a milestone. And your chance, dear music lover, to be ahead of the curve.
--Patrick Foster, April 19, 2011