Equinox, The Peacekeeper - Birdsongs On The Waste Land

Sometimes musicians can seem too self-aware and clever; from the name you’d think that Equinox, The Peacekeeper would be more of that ilk, just a little too knowing, too quirky. Then you actually listen to Birdsongs On The Waste Land, the second album from Belgian Wouter Buyst. With songs about love and songs about death it all sounds a bit obvious, but the way it plays out couldn’t be any less. Full of widescreen soundscapes and canvasses of words that tell stories far more vivid than someone not writing in their first language should be capable of, it is, in short, delightful. There's an ever-present undercurrent of simplicity to the album which shows early on in the acoustic guitar and accent-inflected vocals on 'The Holy Lamb, Soundly Sleeping', one of many intriguing titles. From a smooth start, percussion joins in - drums, bass, organ, harmonies, and by the end you've had the full mix of sonic delights. The African-influenced 'Benares' builds from that base into a wonderfully harmony-driven thing, more complete, more rounded as a song. Then, and don’t be scared, it gets a little experimental - but only in the sounds used, not the song structures. A rhythmic dripping tap introduces 'Heard My Momma Calling' interrupted only by Dylanesque harmonica and an abrasive sounding metronomic tapping. It's less weird than it sounds and it works. On the children's music box warping 'Drop Out Of Time', Buyst sounds as though he's almost literally dialling in his performance on a phone line. 'Total Eclipse' goes bass heavy before working acoustic magic around it; the whole track has a soft jazz feel to it. Proper Americana country (by way of the Lowlands) comes to the fore on '6000 Years' and it works wonders for the pace of both the song and album.

'Walking Drunk Through Heaven Again' is an emotional lament on the notion of love after death and has the most heartfelt harmonica this side of the 70s. And all this without even mentioning the brilliant 'Bills Song', haunting 'Please Strip Naked Now', banjo-picking ‘Until My Voice Is True’, and Indian / Turkish influenced album closer ‘Making Time Stop Evaporating’. Buyst utilises a multitude of sounds here: whistling, barking dogs, submarine sonars, the crackling static of record players, steam trains, yet none of it seems out of place or forced. Whether he's singing about love lost, love found, love in death, or whatever else his distinctive lyrics are musing upon, there's something wonderfully uplifting and touching about each song.Once in a while music can surprise you in brilliant ways. Birdsongs On The Wasteland is a brilliant surprise.




out of 10

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