Richard J. Birkin has not only a fine ear for music, but apparently also a keen eye for unique & creative contexts that suit his ideas and compositions. While he continues to develop in a band context with Emphemetry and Crash of Rhinos, he is building up a lovely body of work to accompany art installations and multimedia projects. Consider Night Sun, a beguiling interactive music & photography exhibit commissioned by Arts Council England and Accretions which he composed for the Event Horizon exhibition at QUAD in Derby, UK.
His latest is Songs for Spoken Words, which has multiple components: (1) an EP of instrumental music, (2) a mobile app that provides words to accompany the music, and (3) live performances which utilize yet another app called Rubato to interact with the audience during the performance. In addition, Birkin will performing the music at a couple of special launch shows with the Iskra String Quartet who have collaborated with artists and notable and diverse as Johann Johannsson, Radiohead, the xx, Vampire Weekend, Sufjan Stevens, and Dustin O’Halloran.
Focusing on the music aspect of the project, the overall mood is reflective and melancholic spanning a spectrum that ranges from the warm slow-indie vibe that bookends the album (‘Being That Person’ and ‘Goodbye’) to modern classical motifs rendered with a dash of cinematic melodrama in such achingly beautiful pieces as ‘That Night’ and ‘One’. Everything is elegantly and minimally arranged, featuring crystal clear acoustic guitar, resonating strings, and just a faint smattering of electronics.
Songs for Spoken Words is worth the price of admission for the music alone; each tune is engaging, both easy on the ear and able to summon wistful feelings in the listener. But one can grasp how Birkin set the pacing and left open spaces so that the music could both be enjoyed both on its own or as soundtrack to accompanying words that will follow. The latter pleasure can be enjoyed by attending one of the live shows or downloading the app after obtaining the album.
Songs for Spoken Words is available via Time Travel Opps as a digital download or as a single-sided cream coloured 12″ vinyl with printed inner sleeves limited to 250 copies. Links below for more information about the recording, apps, and shows.
Official site: http://songsforspokenwords.com/
Featured track: ‘Being That Person’
Video about the Rubato audience interaction app: