Gwilly Edmondez – Song Birds (1987)

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When Gwilly Edmondez bought his first 4-track recorder in 1984, he was already four years old as a player in the Radioactive Sparrow odyssey wherein total improvisation was the sole prescription. Inevitably, perhaps, he deployed the same method for solo studio projects, improvising four tracks (or more bouncing down) separately, building a song’s internal logic through each overdub’s increasing familiarity with the material. That every recorded performance comprised first and only takes of each part was not observed on principle, then; rather it was the absence of any notion that another approach might be worthwhile.

Like almost all Gwilly’s solo albums (with the exception of 1986’s Bigger Geddy Numbers) prior to 1990’s unaccompanied rock singing epiphany, Song Birds is mostly made up of songs whose content and intent is socio-emotional – expressions pitched at specific people and personal experience, even including love songs. ‘Baby, Please Don’t Leave Me’ plays on the narcissistic self-pity the spurned indulges bordering on real insanity. The title track is probably the only song Gwilly ever made about his dad. ‘Blow Job’ ham-fistedly tries to tell the tale of a fraught relationship’s unraveling from the point of view of a girlfriend herself. ‘Who Is They?’ uses a favourite technique of assembling voice overdubs as an auto-choral rabbling, drunk on the euphoria of total self-identification, astonishingly re-observed by Gwilly on encountering a group of ecstatic winos in York one day during an early 21st C heatwave, snapping it briefly to dictaphone for inclusion on the eventually finalled On On On On Any Edmondez (2003-?).

Rather than mining the original masters in the hope of yielding fresh inversions benefiting from 21st C hindsight, this upload is a direct digitization of the edition that did narrow rounds upon the album’s original completion. A glance at the cortex revealed by a visit to the separable archive, in the now, shows that the voices on ‘Ysette Monroe’ are actually quite loud – their subsumption deep into the mix here, therefore, would suggest an intention to weave them like neighbouring colours into the manically overbearing keyboard lines.

Anyone familiar with the Sparrow oeuvre would notice the title ‘Mong’ with a bemused recognition. However, the song is named for the woman whose voice is heard throughout the track: Edmondez was given the cassette and was given to understand that the person singing on it was a Thai prostitute called Mong – on the tape’s label was scribbled ‘Mong singing.’ So there you go. Gwilly seems to have lazily Eno-Byrne’d the objet trouvé into what winds up working in a gay star-shone derive through gently soporific dog hair, setting the precedent for the following year’s more earnest ventures into collage/improvisation on Group Portrait Laughing and Nonchalance In Vain.


1.     Baby, Please Don’t Leave Me
2.     Song Birds
3.     Blow Job
4.     Ysette Monroe
5.     Mong
6.     Who Is They?

Gwilly Edmondez – all sounds, except for…
Jason Davies – mandolin on ‘Mong’

Mong – vocals on ‘Mong’
Casio keyboard borrowed with thanks off Owen Powell of Ogmore
Yamaha synth borrowed with thanks off of Jane Powell of Llandaff (no relation)

Recorded in the Shed, Ewenny, Bridgend, Summer 1987.


Written by Gustav Thomas

January 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

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