The Birdwatcher On Unknown Sundays 2024


I’m pretty sure this is going to be a band that is relatively the most Unknown I’ve talked about.  An obscure band, that started out as Windsor For the Derby (of which until this Unknown Sunday and the research in writing the article past my appreciation for the albums, I didn’t have any connection with), and that’s the rabbit hole, unique, Memento (the movie) like moment of this article.  From a know absolutely nothing gamble from a used record store bin on vacation in Florida (and wait we’ll come full circle back to why that is) to an odd mix of ambient and jangle barren pop electronica, this one is a different kind of musical journey.  And, exploring it, all these years later, finding another connection to The Birdwatcher, just this year, the Windsor for the Derby.

Since the 90s, I had been writing novels.  Don’t get all excited, I’ve never had anything published, but I do enjoy the thrill and mystery and challenge of writing them.  It is probably why I’m attached to albums over singles and songs.  The entire scope from start to finish is the incredible journey, and the payoff is so much greater when it’s a complete picture (right?), or maybe that’s just me.  What I purposely went looking for, in music (sometimes) were ambient or low-fi orchestrations to play in the background that had moods that could set the background for my writing.  It’s like a soundtrack to a book (which never really took off in the music industry).  The only difference is I’m listening to it as the story is unfolding, the characters are speaking, and the description is flowing.  I find it often inspiring, and this was the find that was, well sort of, The Birdwatcher.

So, what attracted me to it was the cover, the band name, and then the title, The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn.  I thought of the idea of the best REM sleep, and how nightmares can be their most vivid at those times, so I picked it up without any realization of what it might be.  There was a tag on it that stated ‘an amorphous blend of subtle, barren pop,’ and that was all I needed to snatch that up.  Hell, I’m not even sure if I completely understood that description, but I am a willing accessory to the music multiverse’s pull on me for new music that falls out of the common range.  And, The Birdwatcher did not disappoint in that description.

So, I discover the band, with it’s not quite Brian Eno, post rock mood-scape in the year 2000.  The album is basically working off of a concept of realizing the slip of darkness into the crack of dawn, exploring that on a very interesting, and rich – but – quite barren instrumental reach.  I found it very interesting and ear-catching.  Seemingly eerie and perfect for my writing background, which was the great surprise.  However, not the greatest vacation music to play in the car (remember I found this in Florida on vacation), so I definitely wasn’t able to put it on in certain company. ‘Cutting Rope’ is the perfect intro to realize that, no matter how much you feel the power of the music, it’s not going to reach happy time vacation goers (a little sub-reference there if you progressiver rock avant-gardest are reading — probably not), and there’s a level of repetition that is not going to rest with the common music listener.

So, what comes next is seeing another The Birdwatcher album release in 2001, which is apparently the second in the trilogy that was stated on the label of the first album.  The tag on this one says, ’emotive & fragile, strangely spooky, slightly unhinged.’  Oh hell to the yes!  Afternoon Tales the Morning Never Knew starts with fresh bell sounds and a keyboard etched gun fire into somber air-organ like playing and finally into a perfectly strumming and picked acoustic electronic riff (with that gun fire still hedging in the background).  There’s an odd plucking (maybe banjo) and the mood again is set for another background of musical expression.  Going back to this album, for this particular Unknown Sundays solidified that the second album draws me in more than the first.  There’s even a little bit of vocals on this record, giving it a Nick Cave indie like track, ‘Empty Boat.’  A lot to appreciate and digest, and I certainly appreciated it.

So, where’s the third in the supposed, mentioned trilogy?  I’ve been waiting for it for 23 years now?  I haven’t seen or heard any of it.  Searching isn’t that easy, as there are other bands that seem to share a common name with plural(s), so here I am — at the first draft of this article–and I now realize Dan Matz.  A name that I have apparently overlooked, just thinking only of The Birdwatcher, when in fact, Dan Matz is The Birdwatcher, and these were his solo albums.  So now, thanks to The Birdwatcher on Unknown Sundays 2024, I now have a new rabbit hole of musicianship to explore in Windsor For the Derby!  And, you can go either way on this one my music multiverse travelers, as Windsor For the Derby had albums prior, during, and after The Birdwatcher!  And, maybe, just maybe The Birdwatcher’s third album will finally emerge?!

Albums by The Birdwatcher In My Collection

  • The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn (2000)
  • Afternoon Tales The Morning Never Knew (2001) 

Albums from Windsor For the Derby

  • Calm Hades Float (1996, Trance Syndicate)
  • Minnie Greutzfeldt (1997, Trance Syndicate)
  • Difference and Repetition (1999, Young God Records)
  • The Emotional Rescue (2002, Aesthetic Records)
  • Earnest Powers (2002, Emperor Jones Records)
  • We Fight Til Death (2004, Secretly Canadian)
  • Giving Up the Ghost (2005, Secretly Canadian)
  • How We Lost (2007, Secretly Canadian)
  • Against Love (2010, Secretly Canadian) 
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