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Super Numeri Great Aviaries Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Spacey improv meets post rock and fragile folky constructions in the debut from...

Chris Jones 2003

They're a collective. They're from Liverpool. They make a lovely noise. But what is it? Clues are thin on the ground for this bunch. Their website features a lot of horses. Song titles bear suitably idyllic names reflecting the spaces they wish to conjure up aurally: Gardens, lakes, ponds, sundials and, of course wildlife in bird ("Beaks") and mammalian ("Otters Poll") forms. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a purely blessed-out ambient enterprise. Like the cover, it's a weird hybrid that can be unsettling in the extreme.

Even the very first track could wrong foot a casual listener. Droning electric sitar, Tom Verlaine-esque guitar figures and a gentle jazz shuffle all put one in mind of that most lazily-termed genres; p*st r*ck (urgh). Yes, the ghost of Tortoise, circa Millions Now Living... hovers over this gorgeous 7 minute meander. But by track 2 ("Sundials") a whole flourishing string section have crashed the session and are making out with a much more hypnotic rhythm section.

It gets even more confusing by the aforementioned "Beaks". Electronic squalls rouse the listener from any restful state, only to dive back into the lush undergrowth of a tinkling harp and gently stroked electric piano by the next track. If the identity crisis sounds faintly menacing, thats because it is.

To construct such artfully nonchalant extemporising takes a lot of ability and Super Numeri obviously have it in spades, yet something about their vision has yet to gell over a whole album. A single-mindedness of vision seems lacking. Too often you are reminded of something wonderful (Can, Japanese koto music etc.) rather than it actually standing on its own merits. While they long to evoke pastoralism, the titles tell you that it's a very English approach, staying closer to cosy parkland than the real wilds. Their great aviary contains birds with exquisite plumage but, like the Peacock, they dazzle but rarely take flight. But as a debut it's assured and very, very promising.

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