Bird Show’s first record Green Inferno was a rare treat, a paradigm-shifting move by a musician with a well-established track record that also made for a pretty swell spin. Bird Show, Ben Vida’s third release under that name is also plenty nice to play, but it feels a lot less special. Working alone on Green Inferno, Vida (of Town And Country, Central Falls, Singer, and Pillow) used incantory vocal melodies and layers of instruments both familiar (guitar, violin, cornet) and novel (thumb pianos, Moroccan castanets) to make music that sounded like some sort of previously unknown shamanic ceremony. This time he and a posse of like-minded collaborators (brother Adam Vida, Greg Davis, Robert AA Lowe, and Michael Zerang) have made a record that sounds like a series of studies inspired by a very cool record collection.
“Two Organs and Dumbek” starts things off with a lovely, braided tone-flow straight out of Terry Riley, circa A Rainbow In Curved Air or Shri Camel. The patter of Middle Eastern hand drums adds a bit of a personal twist, but it’s still awfully easy to see where the music’s coming from. Jump ahead to “Synthesizer Solo” and you’ve got a spot-on recreation of the mini-moog adventures Sun Ra used to enjoy on records like My Brother The Wind, Vol. II. It’s great to hear, but where Ra took the top off your head to open up worlds beyond your ken, Vida just makes me think “damn, I haven’t played that record in a while.”
Only a couple of the record’s 10 tracks are actual songs. Tellingly, they’re the only ones not assigned highly functional titles. “Green Vines” hearkens back to the humid mystery of Green Inferno, while “Clouds and Their Shadows,” with its gentle drizzle of bell tones, feels like a processional into the inner sanctum of some ancient temple. Taken a track or two at a time, Bird Show is a delight, but it’s too true to its name. The record feels like a series of exotic specimens, captured and catalogued and placed on display.