The Serpent and the Sparrow, the upcoming album from Baby Copperhead, is an experimental landscape from a dystopian future featuring new songs arranged for string trio, banjo, acoustic guitar and electronics. Traditional modal tunings from Southern Appalachia and sampled field recordings encounter stark expanses of synthesized sounds amidst contemporary classical arrangements for violin viola, and cello, alternately lush and spare. Building on his “otherworldly” folk roots, Brooklyn-based Ben Lee (a.k.a. Baby Copperhead) extends his explorations of a broken, dissonant sort of Americana, one in which repressed elements from our cultural past—the banjo’s African origins, polyphonic borrowings from 16th century European sacred music—return amidst the ones and zeros of digital metering, sonic figures sculpted by programmable machines, and distant voices broadcast as radio waves over discarded technological channels.
There is an elegiac beauty in Baby Copperhead’s music — a reverent memory of indigenous archetypes of the Southwest, of bird songs serendipitously synched to manmade tempos and tunings native to Lee’s teenage home in North Carolina; yet one can also hear in it the struggle against the tide of our current ecological crises and our unyielding political cynicism.