I’ll admit it. I was slow to warm up to Birds in Row, having first discovered As We Draw back in 2014 on a noise rock compilation. After consequently falling in love with their album Mirages, let’s just say there was a lot to live up to. Quentin Sauvé was haunting on lead vocals and guitars, and his brother Amaury Sauvé was magnificent on the drums!
At least since 2018’s We Already Lost the World, Quentin Sauvé (or Q.) has been handling bass and back-up vocals in Birds in Row. While their long-awaited new album, Gris Klein, might not be as experimental and atmospheric as Mirages, it’s definitely another step in that direction for the band.
The album opens with “Water Wings”. Looping guitar harmonics stutter on while the track layer-upon-layer builds into a massive chorus section. Right away, there’s an inkling of a post-rock sensibility manifested within their hardcore frenzy.
These extremes, something akin to indie rock and something not far away from blackgaze, are laid in stark contrast to one another on “Daltonians”. The intro with its jangly guitars and reverb-laden tambourine basically erupts when the verse comes in. Off-kilter blast-beats and tortured screams: ‘Reality’s a fraud/ My patience could use a doctor‘.
“Confettis” features a more steady drum beat and a memorable ascending and descending melody on the bass. It also sets the stage for “Noah”, one of the band’s most even-tempered tracks. I love how they give each section in the song plenty of time to explore and develop.
I’ve also been enjoying the increased guitar wizardry on this album. “Cathedrals” has that part mid-way through that sounds dunked in Bloc Party influence. Then later on the album, “Rodin” gets so twisted with the guitar FX that I’d believe you if you told me it was a Nick Reinhart feature.
Another track that really stood out from the first listen through the album was “Nympheas”. It features a powerful pitch-screamed chorus, a triumphantly gratifying post-rock flavored outro, and an uncanny similarity to Death Grips on the verses. Seriously. Go listen to “Bottomless Pit” for thirty seconds, and come back to the boot-smack groove on the verses on “Nympheas”. I can almost hear MC Ride saying ‘I wanna fuck you in half‘.
“Trompe L’oeil” is probably the softest song overall on the album. The melancholic guitar strums and melodic vocals remind me of “15-38” from We Already Lost the World. However, this track takes a pretty evil turn around two minutes in. The mangled chromatic guitar noise reminds of that Still/Form album that came out a couple months ago (you can read my review of that here).
The album ends with “Winter, Yet” and “Secession”. The former is like a condensed sample of everything they’ve done on the album so far. It’s high-energy, atmospheric, and grandiose. The latter closes the album out with peppy groove, nailing the accents on the 2’s. By then end, its looping reversed guitar ambience leaves us fading away in a mesmerized state.
Gris Klein is the longest album from the band thus far, both in runtime and the number of tracks. I don’t think there’s a single individual bad song on here; however, the album’s overall dynamics are a bit too subtle. Occasionally, I’d find myself zoning-out or feeling like it’d reached its end already.
That said, this is a really rad album. It’s the Birds in Row album that I’ve enjoyed the most so far. It’s well-stocked with frenetic energy, raw emotion, and it even feels a touch more experimental than the band’s prior work. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of As We Draw‘s Mirages, for me. You can bet your bottom-ass that I’d be at one of those tour dates if I lived in Europe, though!