El Boy Die – The Black Hawk Ladies & Tambourins

At this point in reviewing music, I should learn to be more cautious about buying the hype that promoters and press releases sell to attract listeners, but I’m an eternal optimist. Promises of an album for fans of Devendra Banhart accompanied France-by-way-of-Montreal artist El Boy Die and ‘his’ debut The Black Hawk Ladies & Tambourins.
I get where the person who wrote the one-sheet was coming from, but the material on Black Hawk is far less freaky and a little less folk than Banhart’s output.
In fact, calling it freak-folk is a bit of a misnomer – the music is dark and psychedelic but it lacks the joyful, anarchic spirit that pervades the music of freak-folkers like Banhart.
Labels aside, Black Hawk… is a well recorded album that creates an ominous atmosphere the hollowed-out toms and chorus of atonal voices on “Dead Kings” is spooky as hell and El Boy Die is unrelenting in keeping the listener on edge – this reaches it apotheosis on “Man Eagle,” which for four minutes is the standout track; that is until the field-recording of a pow-wow closes the song out. It’s not just some ‘cool’ atmosphere – it’s cultural misappropriation and a misstep in an otherwise promising record. (Semprini Records, www.semprinirecords.com) Michael Elves