Summer Palace is the new scratchy, rough-as-sandpaper EP from itinerant American song-smith Virgin of the Birds.
I often wonder how tiny musicians (in terms of fanbase/budget/etc. not actual physical size) existed before the digital revolution. With the advancement of home recording and the inevitable democratization of the means of production, modern music consumers are continually bombarded by records of all qualities; good and bad.
At times I despair of the situation I find myself in, as the signal-to-noise ratio is so skewed by the vast hulking mass of terrible records, but at other times I rejoice, for back in the good ol’ days there’s simply no way I would have ever heard a record by an unknown artist from, say, Seattle, who makes sparse, lo-fi works of intrigue and confusion. Partly because such an artist could never have secured the capital necessary to be able to spend time in a recording studio, and partly because even if such a record had been made, there’s no conceivable way it could have traveled to the depths of provincial England; I’d simply never have had the chance to hear it.
Mercifully we live in the age of the internet, and lo and behold such a record has been made, and I have heard it. The record in question is Summer Palace, the new EP by the figuratively tiny act that trades under the name Virgin of the Birds. The aesthetic at work here certainly harks back to the tape-recorded rebellion of the late-eighties and early-nineties, but Jon Rooney – the architect of this record – could easily have picked up a guitar and written this music at any point in the past 70 years. The simple pop-joy of these songs is timeless and they could well have found fame in any era, but the production values are, well, virtually nonexistent. Be that a deliberate aesthetic choice, or simply and artefact of the production budget, I’m grateful to be living in the age I am, because there’s simply no way I would have ever heard Summer Palace if I weren’t wired up to the ‘net. God bless the good ship Progress, and all who sail in her!