New Audio: Swedish Birdpeople Specialize in a Retro-Futuristic Yet Apocalyptic Pop


Comprised of Amanda Blomqvist, Cecilia Wickström and Jakob Lavonius, the Swedish pop trio Birdpeople can trace their origins to the breakup of a previous project, as a result of a sense of diminishing urgency. As the story goes, guitar-based music seemed patriarchal beyond redemption for the trio of Blomqvuist, Wickström and Lavonius, and according to the members of the band, they brought a semi-modular MS-20 analog synthesizer in a fit of desperation. None of them know anything about analog synthesizers  — but that was actually the point in buying one. They projected old science fiction movies onto the wall of their rehearsal space, and began recording improvised music to a portable cassette recorder, and it lead to their Magnus “Existensminimum” Monn-produced EP, an effort recorded despite writer’s blocks with homemade instruments, decrepit, vintage synths and sonorous metal scraps fashioned into a tree-shaped contraction. “We wanted to build a utopia out of all this riff raff, and somehow this became our way of making music feel like it mattered again, the members of Birdpeople explain in press notes. “Using hardware synths makes played parts irrevocable, it limits and hinders – a paradoxical deliverance. There were times when we couldn’t communicate except through the sounds we made; sometimes we were like a harmonious hive mind.”

The members of the Swedish pop act came up with the name Birdpeople after they had finished working on their debut EP, and as they explain, the name is meant to convey the impression of a family, or rather, a cult, as they felt they had become something like that during the writing and recording process — and birds, which had been featured prominently throughout their song’s lyrics had become spirit animals. “We wanted to address the ambivalence of this wondrous-yet-harrowing imprisonment of being human. Nevertheless, music seemed to offer some way out of the compulsory nature of human-being. Bird-being thus became a metaphor for a kind of cyborg-to-be, for the potentiality of being more than human – possessing wings, talons and beak, being able to observe the world from above.” And considering the band’s origins, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that the band draws from a wild hodgepodge of cultural references, including Walter Benjamin, the Hyperobject, Reza Negarestani, Hayao Miyazaki, Andrej Tarkovskij, God, Fritz Lang, Robert Wiene and Alejandro Jodorowsky; a love-hate relationship with contemporary art pop; the zombie-like doggedness of plant life; capitalism; the gender system; the seemingly downfall and collapse of society as we know it; family and the impossibility of breaking free of the; camaraderie; loss, grief, decay; the sensation of having the probers wall from being pulled out from under you; and so on.

Birdpeople’s latest single is a jangling and shuffling track that somehow manages to evoke creeping and unsettlingly anxious nightmare that’s pervasive and inescapable and the eerie quiet of the apocalypse — all while being accessible and hook driven. In some way you can picture the members of the band using claptrap equipment held together by tape, staples and desperate hope to create a sound that’s contemporary, retroactive and  yet kind of alien.