Raleigh North Carolina’s BIRDS OF AVALON (Guitarists Paul Siler and Cheetie Kumar,
bassist David Mueller, synthesist Missy Thangs and dual drummers Scott Nurkin & Jason
Alyward) re-congeal for 2017 with a new LP, Operator’s Midnight, on Third Uncle Records;
wherein far-flung sonic abstractions braid tightly between earworm melodies and polyrhythmic
clamor. The band continues their decade-plus road pilgrimage this fall, having toured with a vast
array of fellow aural travelers including The Flaming Lips, Future Islands, Ex Hex, Black
Mountain, Big Business, Wooden Shjips, Mudhoney, The Raconteurs, Ted Leo and (this time
around) Moon Duo.
Birds spent the better part of the early aughts touring the US and Europe and putting out records
on Volcom Entertainment and Gigantic. Through years of experimentation, repetition, missteps,
epiphany, chance and error, the band located a natural center among the varied, often disparate
styles and appetites of its players. Traditional song structures gave way to rangier explorations,
oblong grooves and quick blasts of unpredictable melody. Gradually, by some mysterious
intermingling of stubbornness and dumb luck, they unearthed a sound that was eerily familiar yet
unmistakably their own.
As the years rolled by, life’s endless permutations roiled the band’s lineup and slowed their
touring schedule, but not their search for new directions in sound. Parenthood, re-education, new
business ventures (including Kumar and Siler’s multi-story music venue, restaurant and cocktail
bar, a cultural institution in their hometown)- by the time the dust cleared the band had expanded
to a sextet, adding synthesist Missy Thangs (The Love Language, No One Mind) and second
drummer Jason Alyward (Valient Thorr) to the fold. Again they stretched their sonic boundaries,
wrangling this new augmented lineup into form across a string of EP’s, 7”s and tours with Ex
Hex and Future Islands in 2015-6.
On Operator’s Midnight, shared melodic vocal lines twist through a dense sonic landscape that
flits between nervy paranoia and blissful expansion. An appreciation of early Eno and his
collaborations with Bowie and Talking Heads is an unmistakable influence, along with an
unabashed love of Can, Neu, Amon Duul II, as well as more recent acts like the Flaming Lips,
Dungen and Temples. Though such influences might be easily glanced at the sleeve, the rest of
the coat unfolds into a sonic garment that is wholly of its own cloth.
The album was recorded over the past several years by Kumar and Thangs at Mitch Easter’s
Fidelitorium Studios, with lots of help from Mitch, their long-time collaborator. Thangs is
currently an engineer at the studio, a job that Kumar held before jumping into the hospitality
world. It’s been a successful jump for Cheetie, as she’s become a renowned chef in the relatively short period since her restaurant, Garland, opened in 2014. In March 2017, she was a semi-
finalist for the James Beard award for best chef Southeast.