Bird Show Band
Amish Records AMI 041
Composer and electronic musician Ben Vida has recorded solo as Bird Show on three previous releases for Kranky. This time out, he’s made Bird Show a band project. Although he’s based in Brooklyn, Vida travelled to Chicago to record, enlisting the aid of post-rock cohorts: Tortoise’s percussionists Dan Bitney and Josh Herndon, keyboardist Jim Baker, and bassist Josh Abrams.
MP3: Quintet Four
Both Baker and Vida employ vintage synthesizers – an ARP 2600 and a Moog Voyager – as the lead instruments on the records. The complex of sound created by the synths encompasses a collage of avant-noise and bleep. Solo sections, such as Vida’sturn at the end of ‘side one,’ are skronk prog feasts, reminiscent of 70s watersheds such as Sun Ra or, more conventionally, Tony Banks’ work on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and some of the odder moments on Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
The rhythm section, on the hand, crafts a background that hews closely to avant-jazz. As usual, Bitney and Herndon are a owerful pair, crafting interlocking grooves that are one part African-influenced polyrhythms and another On the Corner Era swinging fusion. Abrams, who has considerable experience in noise and field recording projects, is the glue that holds these two seemingly at odds sound environments together. He provides enough rhythmic urgency and indeed swing in his walking lines to coalesce with the Tortoise drummers, all the while keeping the melodic palette of his soloing and the harmonic inflections of his accompaniments outside enough to shadow the otherworldly timbres of the synthesists. This is particularly apparent on “Quintet Two,” a rousing improv that imagines an electrified free jazz/post rock/sci-fusion hybrid that’s truly progressive without ever seeming bloated as a result.
Tautly compelling and sonically adventurous, Vida’s found a winning lineup in the Bird Show Band. Rumour has it he’s currently at work on an opera. Dare we hope this quintet is in the ‘orchestra’ pit?