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Below the hustle and bustle of New York City’s streets, lies ‘Terminal NY’, the bunker-come-recording studio of Wisconsin journeyman-songwriter JM Airis. It’s where Wild Birds was conceived - Airis’ striking new noir-folk album that’s all set to soar from the grit of the Brooklyn basement and circle the Empire State Building, bringing a moment of calm to the pulsing heartbeat of the big city.

“New York City is the Rome of the American empire and for what it’s worth I’m here to document it through song,” Airis explains. “It’s exploration of a lot of the common threads of humanity that I think we can all relate to... but there's no message here, only art.”

Channelling the observatory nature of famed New Yorker journalist Joseph Mitchell, listening to Wild Birds is like looking out through a cafe window onto the everyday rigmarole of a man passing in the street. Here, that man is JM Airis and through distinct homespun recordings, he’s accomplished a raw-eyed Dylan-esque commentary from high above, with a back-to-the-land reminder that not everyone in the city is singing songs to cause a commotion.

Whilst Airis’ previous offering Indian Summer was applauded for its traditional grass roots approach that couldn’t be further from his time as drummer in NYC outfit Dead Sparrows, Wild Birds brings everything bang up to date with the prominence of synths, airy spaces and the relegation of guitars to supporting role. Due to the city’s inflated rent prices, the output is a product of its environment with Airis continuing to chase new sounds and textures by resorting to building and modifying his own music-making equipment. “I consider myself a nuts and bolts song guy but the instruments have an ability to push boundaries so I just let it happen,” he says of his lo-fi sound. “The end game is to provide a tool box to record the songs; it’s like the Warhol factory I read about when I was growing up... you can come here and truly make something.”

Surrounded by old 50s and 60s tube schematics and internet forum kits that manifest as functional Microphones, EQs, Compressors and Preamps within the concrete and tin frame of the converted textile warehouse, what they lack in authenticity is more than made up for with their unique and honest sound. From the southern-gothic style of ‘False Birds’ that recalls the lo-fi nature of BRMC’s semi-acoustic album Howl, to ‘Infinite Sun’s neo-country slide guitar and the moody narco-blues of ‘Cant Hurry’, each song stokes the fire that is Airis’ creative process and is a further exploration into the darker psyche of Americana.

Robust and big in presentation, Wild Birds criss-crosses from the swaggering to the solemn. Amongst following vagabonds in a ‘parasite city’, and relaying images of war and peace, Airis sings about the past, the present, and all that’s yet to come; “the future is a skyline, filtered through a dream” he sings on the warm sound of ‘Sliders’ through meandering Marlboro tones before everything is stepped up a gear with the rollicking fuzz of ‘Spine To Spine’.

Recorded almost entirely by Airis himself, leading the way on guitar and vocals, he also enlisted the skills of Young Magic’s Melati Malay who provides backing vocals to the blissed-out, reverb heavy ‘14 Shadows’, plus the technical expertise of Kloke records’ Kloke (high guitar), Ryan Olson (electric drums), and Solid Gold’s Adam Hurlburt (bass) with the “Wild Birds” live band consisting Graham Finn (synth/slide guitar/bass), Street Smells’ Evie Beach (keyboard/drums), and Alan O’Keeffe (guitar).

Sometimes an artist doesn’t create the music; often it finds them. Airis may be bound for higher heights with Wild Birds, but every bit both artist and engineer, his head is anywhere but in the clouds. “I just happen to be enamoured by sounds so music is my medium... from there I try to make the best kind possible so people of a similar mindset will want to take notice... don't bullshit a bullshitter, that’s what I say.”

JM Airis: Wild Birds

Fe Telo JM Airis
Infinite Sun JM Airis
True Demeanor JM Airis
14 Shadows JM Airis
Sliders JM Airis
Dependents JM Airis
False Bird JM Airis
Spine To Spine JM Airis
Can't Hurry JM Airis
Electric 22 JM Airis

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