Review: The Noise Birds ‘The Dark Sea Hides A Bright Light’

The Dark Sea Hides A Bright Light is the first album under the name The Noise Birds, but it’s actually the second from this collaboration. When Tokyo-based duo Suishou No Fune (translated: ‘Crystal Boat’) recorded with San Francisco’s Numinous Eye in 2007 the results were simply released under the combined name: Suishou No Fune & Numinous Eye. When they repeated the undertaking in 2018, the resulting work was fittingly credited to a third entity: The Noise Birds.

The Noise Birds 'The Dark Sea Hides A Bright Light'

The Japanese half is Pirako and Kageo, both guitarists, while the US half consists of guitarist Mason Jones and drummer Mike Shoun, making The Noise Birds a trio of guitars with a backbone of drums. The entire album was improvised and recorded over the course of an afternoon, and released as three long pieces.

The fact that the session was filmed, with some of the footage now available on YouTube, gives us some insight into how some of these sounds were produced. The footage shows for example, Kageo patiently playing full chords as the main melodic foundation, while the other guitars dance around, mad and elegant, and the drums keep the whole lot in check.

Ten-minute opener When The Light Showers Down It Gives Us A Sign begins with a pealing of small bells, delicate as a tiny bird, and distant sounds of guitars gradually approaching, timid and furtive, peering at you from the shadows. The skittering drums at this point give no rhythmic guidance. The sound unfolds and builds unhurriedly as guitars begin keening their distortion, sounding like voices cracked from wailing. The whole event reaches a crescendo and begins to fade into the distance, just as the drums finally hit a 4/4 to usher the other participants back to the darkness.

This is music of lamentation and melancholy, music to conjure the memories of lost loves and remind us of impermanence and sorrow…

Beyond The Ocean, Flying In The Sky starts rather more swiftly: an edited version of something much longer. It’s a dream of flight, and begins with protagonists already soaring. One of the guitars is already overdriven to the point of white noise, like the sound of wind rushing past your ears, and the drums are a steady kinetic pulse from the start. The other guitar sounds are of ascension, loops, twists, and arcs, squealing and howling till the all-too-abrupt end; you’re awake, earth-bound and longing to go back to the dream.

A Dance Loved By A Lost Friend begins carefully and deliberately, Kageo sifting through memories with his Fender, as the others gradually add substance to the requiem. The energy increases with regular chopping drum fills, and increasingly overdriven and abstract guitars, till only one mournful melody is discernible through the noise. It briefly fades to feedback, another takes its place: each instrument adds to the lament, until the whole story fades into forgetfulness.

Much of this album is not psychedelic music as I would normally understand it. It’s utterly, thoroughly spellbinding and mesmerising, but not a liberation of the mind from the manacles of the mundane, not a glimpse of hitherto-unseen vistas. The mundane world is not left behind – it just fades to ghostly grey. The anxious chatter of your day-to-day becomes no more than a whisper on the edge of consciousness, a white noise that you can’t pinpoint. The images in your mind’s eye as you listen are not of unimagined potential, but of half-remembered heartache.

This is music of lamentation and melancholy, music to conjure the memories of lost loves and remind us of impermanence and sorrow.

Label: Riot Season
Band Links: Bandcamp

Scribed by: Rob Bryant