Not just another "chick with a ukulele"

Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs

Before you start reading about Merrill Garbus and her latest album as tUnE-yArDs, why don't you take a second to dance a little:

Got that out of your system? Those infections beats and catchy melodies arrive via her latest album, entitled "Nikki Nack." Fans of Garbus will notice more of a pop music feel to this new release, and that's partly due to the singer's increasing familiarity and use of drum machines.

It's a new step for Garbus, who is primarily known for looping drum beats with a pedal and microphone as a sort of low-tech/high-tech one woman band. The singer/songwriter took a disciplined approach to this album, setting aside blocks of time to focus on improving both her abilities on analog and acoustic instruments:

"To me, there’s got to be a balance between computers and everything else. So for me that’s between computers and then actually having drumsticks in my hand and improving myself as a human player of musical instruments."

Garbus particularly enjoys when mistakes, be they human or computer, create quirky music. In using an iPad to record beats, the drum machine's difficulty in keeping up with her finger tips created an imperfect beat - one that she ended up using in the first track on the album.

This aspect of the flawed human-machine interaction is what interests Garbus most, and where she prefers to exist when making music with machines.


Listen to a Spotify playlist built by Ben Johnson featuring artists from our Playing With Machines series, and others: 

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

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