There’s a long history of birdsong in music, ranging from 20th century composer Olivier Messiaen’s bird call notations to more-recent meditative, new age styles. They’re a quintessential signifier of nature and tranquility, a meditative, trance-like sound similar to beats of the wind or the crash of the ocean. On Green Cone, composer and artist Amanda Berlind once again harnesses the power of a well-placed bird chirp, bolstering her effervescent electronic landscapes with nature’s distant chatters. Her music is as brilliant as neon green, but channels a laid-back attitude that colors each track with a wistful serenity.
Berlind’s compositional style seemingly draws upon a variety of influences: Blossoming postminimalism, lo-fi indie hooks, musique concrète. Each track on Green Cone, Berlind’s debut full-length, makes the most of fragmented repetition, funneling twinkling, short phrases through hazy plumes of electronics and flitting bird calls. As the pieces unfold, they become more intricately layered, branching out from their core simplicity into delicately interwoven rhythmic patterns, creating dense textures that somehow still manage to feel airy. Sparkling electricity beams beneath the gentle music, providing just enough energy to propel it forward but not enough to overtake the solitude of the sound.
This succinct style is instantly attractive, but Green Cone is, ultimately, too much of the same. It starts strong with the opener, “Snoom,” which bursts like the first ray of sunshine at dawn as soft sung “ah’s” float into a sea of upbeat electronics, reminiscent of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s The Kid. But once we hear the Miyazaki-esque wonder of “Pom 1,” whose bubbling piano wafts between shrill birdsong with as easygoing a motion as an afternoon jam session, it’s as if we’ve heard it all. The tracks all follow the same prescription of delicate textural harmonies and hidden layers that slowly unravel and snap back together, and it becomes more difficult to tell them apart and much easier to tune them out.
But perhaps listening to Green Cone isn’t meant to be an experience in pulling each moment apart with detailed rigor. The album is most rewarding when it’s seen as a holistic journey into Berlind’s realm of bright-hued ideas. It’s visual as well as musical, accompanied by vibrant videos made by Berlind and Ethan Barretto; these videos pair coloring book doodles with funky neon shapes, highlighting stark contrast and a penchant for whimsical curiosity. Berlind’s music itself deals in a wafting subtlety, but when paired with this visual surrealism, her vision finally feels fully realized. We’re on a daydream in her psychedelic universe made of wacky birds and old-school coloring books. There’s no need to come back to reality.