English alternative rock duo Birdpen are the creation of Dave Pen and Mike Bird. They mix elements of alternative guitar rock, experimental electronica and Krautrock with cinematic moods, all delivered with powerful and meaningful lyrics. All Function One is an album written as the world was changing at the start of the 2020 pandemic. An album about isolation, digital sadness, loneliness, deep fakes, paranoia and living a modern cyber life.
An ominous start as the first track ‘Function’ fades in. Drums pound in time with jagged guitar giving a heavy weight feeling to this album start. This emotive track is boosted with the introduction of strings and a slow vocals. The track ends in one of joyous celebration with upbeat drumming
‘Life In Design’ has a laid back affair a lot like the following track ‘Modern Junk’. But the instant album highlight is track 3. ‘Shakes’ takes on a slower pace as an acoustic ballad providing a moment of beauty. Something this album isn’t short of. It’s the track where you really hear the band and the talent they have. As next track ‘Seat 35′ proves that the talent is a fluke. With a touch of European the drums take the centre stage on the intro, Seat 35’ takes us listeners on an aeroplane journey with synths fading in and out and long notes held on strings.
Starting like an industrial church organ thats played backwards ‘Blackhole’ is a gorgeous album interval splitting the album in half. The second half sees the album take on a more upbeat rockier edge starting with ‘Flames’ A funky track dominated by a snappy bass line this indie classic joins with ‘Modern Junk’ and the albums other indie sounding tracks like ‘Universe’ which creates a soothing atmosphere with the gentle guitar strumming and rise and fall from the strings. ‘Invisible’ creates the same with picked guitar but bings in a rockier drum beat but the track still has that easy rolling feel that dominates this album. The tracks just wash over you in electronic and indie waves.
A darker twist comes from the stark ‘Otherside’. Glorious gothic pop with its repetitive theme picked out on guitar and a drum beat that lifts the track up into being on of the highlights of the album. The softly sung falsetto from Dave Pen perfectly suits the duo music.
The strings return for the track ‘Changes’ as the monotone of the vocals produces a hypnotic reflection of life during the lockdown. The loneliness and paranoia perfectly mapped out with the cold robotic feel of the synths and steady drum beat.
The droning quality of ‘Undone’ is the perfect track to end this album on. Emotive strings lay the scene for the vocals asking for “the light”. The loneliness and stark beauty of ‘Changes’ and the use of strings to add textures on ‘Shakes’ feature on ‘Undone’ as it captures the quiet wildness of the lockdown world. In ways this track sums up the whole album and feels like a conclusion to the bands take on what was 2020.
Theres something about these duo’s who push the line of what a duo can do and sound like. A lot like Black Pistol Fire and their recent effort of Look Alive. Birdpen have some real moments of beauty on ‘All Function One’. The use of strings, sparse guitar and intelligent lyrics build an album of rare spacious moments that soothe and heal. Something we could all do with right now.
Check out the track Invisible, below:
Order the album here