Henry Birdsey

(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Grain / Lying to the Congregation (2017), 6/10
Homecoming Veil (2017), 5/10
Marionettes (2017), 5/10
Orchard Cut (2018), 6/10
Concertina Wire (2018), 5.5/10
Kona Decoy (2019), 6.5/10
Prisma Decoy (2020), 6/10
Laments for Just Intonation Harpsichord (2020), 5/10
Catacomb Relay (2020), 6.5/10
Half-Dragged (2021), 5.5/10
Old Saw: Country Tropics (2021), 7/10
Trespass Field (2022), 6.5/10
Site Cosms (2022), 5/10
Private Lottery (2022), 5/10
Bell Formations I-V (2022), 5/10

Vermont-based pedal-steel and lap-steel guitarist Henry Birdsey specialized in droning music with microtonal and just intonation tunings.

The S.T.L.A. acronym (that over the years stood for different things) was first employed for Grain / Lying to the Congregation (2017), a six-part droning composition performed by a quintet. In his own name Birdsey released the live album Homecoming Veil (2017), actually recorded by a quintet. STLA was then credited for: Marionettes (2017), eight pieces for prepared electric guitar and metals, notably Syra Change Ringing; Triple Mercedes on the Firing Range (2017), two extremely distorted seven-minute pieces, like extended Jimi Hendrix solos; Orchard Cut (2018), four pieces for solo lap steel and metal objects, notably the 15-minute Bold and Carriage Coil, one of his noisiest concoctions; and the five pieces for just-intonation organ of Concertina Wire (2018). Birdsey played lap steel, pedal steel, microtonal organ, fiddle and hammered dulcimer on the two pieces of Kona Decoy (2019): the suspenseful and then bombastic Do You Know Yer Curses? (12:05), which ranks as one of his most melodramatic compositions, and the noisy Man You Gotta Graveyard In Your Backyard (12:22). He plays orchestral bells, microtonal organ, punctured harmonium, fiddle, hammered dulcimer, lap steel and gutted piano on the two pieces of Prisma Decoy (2020): Lead-Gray Livery (15:50), a slow ominous crescendo leading to abrasive dissonance, and the somewhat neurotic bell concerto Halliburton Exhumations LLC (17:14). Despite being credited to S.T.L.A., these all appear to be solo albums.

Birdsey was also half of the duo Tongue Depressor with jazz bassist Zach Rowden, which debuted with Null Set (2017) and then released Broad Is The Road That Leads To Death (2018), Dregs (2019), In The Quarter Column (2021), Residual Magnetism (2021), Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em (2021), Burnish (2022), Tilting Irons (2022), and seven volumens of Fiddle Music (2018-2022).

Birdsey's solo album Laments for Just Intonation Harpsichord (2020) contains eleven "laments" in different tunings, from the very slow 1 to the brainy 15-minute 11. The 37-minute piece of Catacomb Relay (2020) is scored for double bass and is one of his most dynamic droning composition.

Distant Duos (2020) documents a collaboration with Mary Staubitz.

Half-Dragged (2021) contains four just-intonation drones, the third one disintegrating into a hammering metallic sound.

An ensemble named Old Saw, consisting of Bob Driftwood (banjo), Ira Dorset (fiddle), Clarence Lewis (pipe organ), Harper Reed (resonator guitar, nylon string guitar), Ann Rowlis (orchestral bells) and Birdsey (on pedal steel and lap steel), recorded Country Tropics (2021), which at its best (the 13-minute Mechanical Bull at Our Lady of the Valley) evokes an oneiric and polyphonic version of John Fahey's fare forward journeys, and sometimes (the nine-minute Chewing the Bridle) a kind of desert-baked psychedelic slocore.

Trespass Field (Trouble In Mind, 2022) contains two of his most powerful inventions: the distorted monster raga Hayseed Gargoyle (14:21) and the sinister wall of white noise of Never Settled (15:21).

Site Cosms (2022), credited to Formant, contains four 20-minute environmental recordings obtained by placing microphones inside plastic pipes, notably the oceanic waves of Overpass.

Private Lottery (2022) contains four pieces for sounds of bells increasingly manipulated to become lugubrious drones.

Bell Formations I-V (2022) documents a collaboration with Max Eilbacher.

Best so far: Do You Know Yer Curses? (2019), Catacomb Relay (2020), Hayseed Gargoyle (2022)

(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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