Back in November 2013 I reviewed Bird Radio’s first outing “The Boy and The Audience” and said ” Bird Radio is like a demented Pied Piper cum Cat Weasel character for the Ableton Live generation – fail to listen at your peril!” and he’s just released is his Oh, Happy England album.

Oh, Happy England is a collection of poems by Walter de la Mare, an English poet born 1873, set to music. I must confess to being completely unaware of de la Mare but you live and learn. Bird Radio (Mikey Kirkpatrick) says about de la Mare “When you enter into a poem by Walter de la Mare, you are never certain of the boundaries between reality and dreams. His poetry covers a broad spectrum of textures and emotions from moments of realisation and self recognition as in The Englishman to dark, isolated and nightmarish scenes such as Drugged and reveries such as Time Passes”. 

The album has been developed with the support of Aldeburgh Music where Bird Radio composed and recorded the tunes on residency with an ensemble of voice, flute, piano, cello, guitar, bass and percussion.

This is not your usual fare…much as The Boy and the Audience wasn’t. It is dark, sparse, a bit unnerving ( and yes, nightmarish even)… but at the same time really quite beautiful. Like his previous album I reviewed, this is a very English record and despite the material (poems) being relatively recent (ish) there is still a medieval feel overall. I suppose it will get labelled as folk and I think it is…sort of.

I like Bird Radio a lot and this album is very good, if very different from The Boy. It’s not the kind of thing you are going to put on as you get ready to pop down the Roxy Club to chance your arm with the opposite sex, but it is eminently listenable all the same. It conjures dark, gloomy, old houses with things potentially lurking with mal-intent in the corner.

I’ve just read that back and it makes Oh, Happy England appear a miserable and joyless outing…it isn’t…and it is a bit too. There is a real exquisiteness in its sparseness that appeals to me. No, not everyone is going to “get” Oh, Happy England, but then I’m sure Bird Radio never meant it to have broad appeal. It could be very easy to label Oh, Happy England as a contrived, academic exercise made for those that reside in Pseuds Corner, but it is accessible and it is very enjoyable. It is clever and it is a bit nuts…I loved it!

Out Now and highly recommended!

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