Clowns in a Blender

Yep, the birds are annoying him again. He’s awake early, best stay indoors…

Illustration: fat roland

Birdsong. The worst kind of song. It’s five in the morning and I’m struggling to sleep. The sounds of Global Communication drift from my stereo as a sonic sedative. I’m cuddling my favourite duvet, with all its familiar smells of sweat, feet and midnight Pot Noodles. And yet, the birds. The stupid, chattering birds. The dawn chorus outside my window seems especially loud this morning. Their incessant musical gymnastics is rendering my soporific ambient music moot. I’ll never get back to sleep. I want to march from my bed with a chainsaw. Chop down their trees. Scatter their nests into the wind. But I’m in my most ineffective underpants, and I’m not having the neighbours call the police. Not again.

My intolerance for birdsong is rooted in my scepticism about jazz. My father was a jazz aficionado, and I grew up with a record-crackled soundtrack of wacky trumpets and scat solos. He owned Acker Bilk in bulk, all the Kenny Ball. Everything sounded mixed up and far too jolly, like clowns in a blender. Thank goodness for the quantised 4/4 certainty of rave. Who needs confusing real instruments when you can have trusty buttons marked POP PIANO and SYNTH BRASS on an old beat-up Casio keyboard? That’s the problem with birds. They sound like jazz. Notes all over the place, tonnes of tremolo, persistently perky, never shutting up. I wouldn’t mind, but they’re not even using trumpets. It’s all just beak blatherings. Lazy.

Birds have pecked their place into electronic music history. On White Noise’s classic ‘An Electric Storm’, there’s a tale of an injured ‘Firebird’ being fed milk and honey before it bogs off without a please or thank you. Wendy Carlos utilised birdsong on her ambient work ‘Sonic Seasonings’. Daphne Oram’s ‘Bird Of Parallax’ sounded like a David Attenborough documentary from the pits of hell. The biggest dance music hit about birds is Fatboy Slim’s ‘Sunset (Bird Of Prey)’, although it was named after a poxy fighter jet and not an actual bird. I hope you’re paying attention to all this. There will be a test. Moody noise-prodder Merzbow had ‘13 Japanese Birds’. And Martina Topley-Bird did vocals for slurry trip hopper Tricky. These aren’t jokes for this column, by the way. They’re just straight facts. That’s what this page is going to be from now on. Me parroting true things with the leaden repetition of a depressed wood pigeon.

Erasure might be the most bird-y synthpop act. There’s something about the look of them. Andy Erasure has the appearance of an amorous eagle. Vince Erasure is like a studious owl, judging us quietly with his stare, occasionally spinning his head a full 360 degrees whenever he sees a mouse. Erasure are phenomenally ornithological in contrast to non-bird acts. For example, Aphex Twin is an Afghan hound. The Prodigy are a pack of cheeky monkeys. Boards Of Canada are flatfish. See? Erasure are birdy. Brian Eno is birdy. And those idiots that did ‘The Birdie Song’ are most definitely birdy.

It’s half past five in the morning and I’m scrolling through Twitter. They call it the bird app. The metaphor works. Each user sits atop their own tree, squawking into a rain-grey void while crapping on anyone who dares to come close. The birdsong outside my window is now growing on me, although I’m useless at identifying species common to English gardens. I suspect sparrows, thrushes, possibly flamingos, the occasional pterodactyl. It’s probably time for breakfast. A nice bowl of milk-sodden Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. There’s a rooster on the cereal box, a bird whose cock-a-doodle-doo was famously used in the intro of The Orb’s ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’. Now that’s a birdsong I can get behind. I’ll sleep better with less random tweeting and more rooster calls. Less jazz, more cocks. Now where did I put my chainsaw?

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