Album Review: Bedouine – Bird Songs of a Killjoy

If you are a regular visitor to the Joyzine site then, like me, you are probably someone who is not afraid of LOUD. You’ll likely get a frisson when you hear the hum and crackle of a guitar just about to distort, you’ll like your ankles snapped and an amp that goes to 11. But everyone should consider a balanced musical diet and kick back, pour a generous glass of sherry and browse through their music collection in search of the beautiful strains of Joni Mitchell, John Martyn or Miles Davis. Well, add another artist to the list of vocalists that will soothe the gig-savage in anyone.

Bird Songs of a Killjoy is the second album from Bedouine; the recording name, as I wrote in my review of her exquisite Purcell Rooms show, of Azniv Korkejian. It’s a ”Gallicised riff on Bedouin, the nomad, the wanderer”. She was born in Syria and lived in Saudi Arabia before coming to the US and ending up in Los Angeles. Her first album Bedouine was recommended by a friend and my love for this fine selection of songs grew with every listen. Seeing her live was the last piece of the puzzle, cementing my feeling that she is fast becoming one of the great singer/songwriters.

Bird Songs is a more confident expression of her talent. The first album was sparser; the voice a little further back in the mix and gave the vague impression that Azniv was the singer in a band not the sole focus. Bird Songs has been mixed to allow Azniv’s voice to fully shine with the instruments providing a solid home for the songs to live in. And what a voice it is that shines through: it’s resonant and deep in songs such as ‘Under the Night’ and ‘One More Time’ and light and playful in ‘Sunshine Sometimes’ and ‘Echo Park’. Azniv is also an accomplished guitarist who has developed an organic style only prevalent in great singer/players where each discipline is woven together adding both foundation and counterpoint.

The incredible support these songs receive from the musical arrangements cannot be understated. Zooming out from the amazing voice, the instrumentation is a beautiful collage of sounds. Some, like strings or Cor Anglais, can be de rigueur for the folk spectrum, but there are also leftfield tinges of fuzz or warped guitar in tracks such as ‘Dizzy’ where psych guitar runs like mercury throughout. It also offers up a dream like section that culminates in a crescendo of echoed backing that would fit right in with Grace and Danger era John Martyn.  ‘When You’re Gone’ (the standout track for me) shows off Trey Pollard’s Lush string arrangements; recalling the delicate work by the late Robert Kirby on Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter. The amazing Lucius also feature on backing vocals and having seen them live four times I would advise checking out their albums such as Wildewoman (they have recently been adding their preternatural harmonies to Roger Waters’ recent tour).

These songs are a bloody delight and allow moments of lemon-sharpness to cut through any hint of oversweet sentimentality. They soar above Laurel Canyon and swoop down over Tanworth in Arden and I don’t doubt I will be listening to Bedouine for a long, long time to come. If you like what you hear then Bedouine is playing live again in London at the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Saturday 7 September, 2019.  Tickets available here

Review by Paul F Cook

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