Written and performed by Ben Vida with Gregg Davis, Robert Lowe and Michael Zerang, recorded in Chicago, IL and Burlington, VT 2007-08. Ben Vida handles quite a few instruments on his own on this jaw-dropping release; Hammond XB-2, microKorg, Moog Voyager, Gibson SG, Berinbau, Shona Mbira, Slit Drum, Pan Pipes, Shakers, Vietnamese Jaw Harp, Tambourines, Ride Cymbal, Congas, Wood Flute, Ring Modulator, Elephant Bells, Violin, Qraqeb, Zither, Voice, Ten String Harp, Frame Drum, Finger Cymbals, Triangle and probably more!
Review by Ned Raggett
Ben Vida's solo project Bird Show has slowly taken on a life of its own, showing that far from "just" being a spin-off of Town and Country he easily rivals -- if not heads to greater heights -- the band which most helped make his name. On the self-titled third album, he and four collaborators create an often rich sound which never lacks for any fun at the same time -- while he's ultimately working within a familiar path of electronic avant-garde pop experimentation that's more 1960s and after, it's art music as playful energy charge, something which Raymond Scott would have approved of from across the decades. Though perhaps a better comparison would be mid-'70s Brian Eno, as the opening "Two Organs and Dumbek" -- like most of the rest of the album, named after the primary instruments used -- readily showcases, a space-pop mood out that sparkles sweetly. It sets the tone without predicting the rest of the album, which ranges from the minimal zone of "Percussion and Voice" to the Martin Denny percussion nods on "BRDDRMS," a merry bit of sonic tourism on many levels. More recent roots in bedroom experimentalists can be heard as well on "Mbira, Harp and Voice," which has the rough-edged feeling of an inspired single-take field recording, and "Green Vines," which -- almost -- suggests the more compelling drone moments of work by Panda Bear. The drowsy singalong harmonies of "Clouds and Their Shadows" and the quietly sung "Wood Flute, Berimbau, Mbira and Voice" further ground the album in vocals as much as the music, but overall on Bird Show Vida serves up an instrumental delight, evocative of a past that never quite was but should still have been.