Song 120: tUnE-yArDs, “Bizness” (2011)


Pieces coming together and coming apart. That’s all music is, even if it’s one person playing one instrument, one note at a time. It’s all combinations.

In songs like the ones that come from Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, those pieces are made explicit. They fall in, play with each other, and fall out. She works with loops, a musical exercise I used to sneer it–because, for all I knew, it was only the domain of douchey guys with acoustic guitars at open mics. I had no idea it was used to great effect by a lot of great musicians, including Garbus and Andrew Bird (and, y’know, hip-hop).

Seeing Garbus live is an amazing thing to witness. Not only does she do the looping on the spot (performing and recording one part, layering other parts on top as she goes), but she’s an incredible performer, with a ton of stage presence, and a voice that you’d expect to come from a more hyperactive Nina Simone.

“Bizness” was the main single from 2011’s W h o k i l l, and it provides a good example of her technique. The main sample comes in, she adds more of them, she sings on top of it all. That’s simplifying it, of course, but again, that’s all any of this is. Garbus just moves the implicit process to the foreground. Also, crazy dancing.


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