The spirit of Nina Simone is alive and well on Merrill Garbus’ second album. Chances are hers isn’t a conscious revival, but the Oakland, Calif., multi-instrumentalist has the lioness in her soulful voice and loops it with inventive results. Whokill follows Garbus’ self-recorded 2009 debut, Bird-Brains, by shifting focus to a woman’s view of violence, whether mimicking the siren of “Gangsta” and/or howling, “There is a freedom in violence that I don’t understand” on “Riotriot.” The head-bob of “Es-so,” dubby doo-wop of “Doorstep,” and Afro-pop of “Bizness” demonstrate an ease with experimental instrumentation, drums, bass, sax, and ukulele skipping in tandem with her rubber-band vox. Matched with rough subject matter, this gives Whokill a sound without peer. Garbus is a “new kinda woman,” declares closing track, “Killa,” and it’s about damn time.
By A. Schroeder