Merill Garbus' output as TuNe-YaRdS can never have the same power on record as it does performed live but 'W H O K I L L' comes closer than anything preceding it at capturing the essence of the New England natives primordial force. At least, it encapsulates her oblique oddity and portrays the confidence of her performance much better than debút full-length 'BiRd-BrAiNs' does, whilst perhaps having a slightly weaker, if more cohesive, set of songs.
It can be as difficult to describe the Tune-Yards sound without making it sound horrific as it can to use the projects typography without making it look like a deliberately 'kooky' gimmick. Built around looped beats and staccato blasts of guitar, bass, horn and voice it supplants the romance of seventies R&B and injects a dose of Afro-beat rhythms and unadulterated rock and roll spirit.
Merill's main source of power is her voice, and it is the one thing that keeps the album going when everything else falls into cacophony. Her shrieks, looped to create a siren, and screams of 'BANG BANG BANG' drive 'Gangsta', which brings to mind the rowdier moments of Menomena's latest opus and is the albums most effective channelling of the chaotic vibe Merill orchestrates.
Whilst not coming close to their sheer velocity and violence, W H O K I L L often resembles Hella or Lightning Bolt in its 'at the edge of the abyss' delivery and shares their boundless energy, and the pounding beats of 'Es-So' and 'Bizness' wouldn't sound out of place in the hands of Zach Hill or Brian Chippendale.
Further comparisons may be found with Volcano! or Akron/Family across the album, and like the material of these two artists the quieter moments of W H O K I L L fall slightly flat, particularly penultimate track 'Wooly Wolly Gong' which long outstays its welcome before its conclusion after six minutes.
But ultimately W H O K I L L creates its own path and strays away from any trod-upon grounds despite not sounding like a record that has been purposely created to situate itself away from its peers/listenability, as some of its comparators have previously, and whilst it may not come close to being a worthy substitution of catching Merill live it is still a highly enjoyable album.