The Wind-up Bird – Whips

The Wind-up Bird – primarily the work of Joseph Grimm (of the post-rock band 33.3) and joined here by Jeff Smith (surprisingly of the screamo band Jerome’s Dream) – has created one of the most intriguing and subtly powerful albums I’ve heard in quite some time. In eight instrumental tracks, Whips is a beautiful, intense, and intriguing mix of organic and electronic mix, combining ambience and post-rock and orchestral experimentation into one brilliant work.
And it feels like one work, as the song titles will attest; they are broken up but are read as a sentence: “Sorry that I’ve become this monster; I love you a lot.” It’s no wonder the tracks have a cohesive feel, flowing together effortlessly yet with enough subtle changes and flow in structure to prevent it from feeling repetitive. The track changes are basically meaningless; it’s an album that virtually requires one full, cohesive listen, and headphones are suggested as the mix of instrumentation is phenomenal.
The instruments vary from guitar and pedal steel to violin, trumpet, and trombone, with electronic blips and bleeps and keyboard ambience mixed in throughout to contrast the organic feel of the traditional instrumentation. It’s a testament to Grimm and Smith that they can combine the two styles so perfectly, and while the style occasionally feels ambient and textured, it’s just as likely to flow into a Godspeed-esque trend of experimentalism and orchestrated music.
The album flows beautifully, beginning soft and traditional, with more strings involved, and taking on a more electronic and glitch style. Before the break between the two phrases of the song titles, a recorded message from a distraught woman comes in, repeating the phrases and taking them to an intense and rather disturbing build, definitely the album’s climax as the remainder drifts back into more intricate and beautiful territory.
The influences on Whips range from glitch and electronica to subtle drone and ambient, all combined with the beautiful sounds of post-rock and even folk music. Few could weave those strings so effortlessly and beautifully as Grimm and his compatriot has. It’s a phenomenal release with something new to offer on each repeated listen, and it’s as likely to lull the listener as challenge.