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Bird Show

Lightning Ghost

(Kranky; US: 11 Apr 2006; UK: 17 Apr 2006)

Bird Show is the work of basically one man, and he is Ben Vida. Vida has never come across a sound, blip, bleep, skronk or any other snippet of noise or music that he hasn’t liked or, more importantly, used in his music. So it should come as no surprise that Vida is back at it again, although this time around the musical pieces are a tad more cohesive. That’s not to say that Lightning Ghost is linear or structured in a way that some pop / rock fans would perhaps enjoy or appreciate. Far from it! But Vida does have a certain knack for creating something out of nothing, and more often than not that is the case with this, his sophomore album under this Bird Show moniker. From the initial moments of “Field On Water”, Vida takes you on a sonic journey that touches on artists like Peter Gabriel and Devendra Banhart—a monotone, mantra-like, hypnotic feeling with chimes and light percussion making their way into the track. There is also enough space in the songs to recall, in certain instances, Pink Floyd circa Syd Barrett.


From there, Vida opens up another can of musical worms with “Pilz”, a space-y kind of opus that sounds like it could have come from either Vangelis or a song intro for some progressive rock act. A Middle Eastern groove is played out on guitar, giving it some much needed color and direction. But Vida sounds like he’s singing or talking his way through the song in his sleep. More chimes, triangles, bells and props are used to create a trip-riddled, psychedelic feel. The only problem with this track is that it seems to lose its sense of purpose or direction far too early, making the remainder drag terribly. Fortunately, “Seeds” works better. with Vida’s vocals buried under a repetitive wave of guitar and percussion that never really takes off but remains strong and steady. Vida repeats “Take It Slow” as the number gets busier, but not to the point of insanity, just a happy madness. And what song can get by without adding bagpipes into the mix?


Vida ensures that you won’t get bored, but at the same time you will take to certain parts of this album and want to toss other portions in the garbage. “First Path Through” tends to fall into the latter category, as it really doesn’t go anywhere, more so than anything else resembling a bad intro to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”—a synth-riddled cacophony that eventually comes off sounding like a pulse. Vida then goes completely off the rails and maybe off his rocker with “Beautiful Spring”, which starts off with guitar feedback before toning things down into lighter, quasi-triangle playing with some eclectic instruments thrown into the mishmash. Does it work? Well, to some extent yes but it gets to be grating after about two minutes or roughly halfway through. And the warm, island feeling behind the title track is a mixed blessing—relaxing but, again, almost to the point of annoyance, ultimately dying a slow, agonizing death. Sometimes Vida doesn’t know when to stop pushing the envelope, and this is a perfect example of going too, too far.


Perhaps the high point of the record is the structured and quite accessible “Greet The Morning”, which instantly recalls something Pink Floyd would have done on Meddle—soft, winding, acoustic-based but at times musically “out there”. Keys, guitars and handclaps are sprinkled throughout to great effect. And Vida rides that momentum on the ensuing “On The Beach”, which seems to be the perfect music interlude for, well, walking along a beach, creeping along and slowly getting into one’s head. Another plus is how it flows without hitting any bumps in the road for nearly seven minutes. Closing with “Sleepers Keep Sleeping”, which could have fit on Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s No Quarter in terms of its repetitive feeling and groove, Vida has made a decent if complex second album.

Rating:

Originally from Cape Breton, MacNeil is currently writing for the Toronto Sun as well as other publications, including All Music Guide, Billboard.com, NME.com, Country Standard Time, Skope Magazine, Chart Magazine, Glide, Ft. Myers Magazine and Celtic Heritage. A graduate of the University of King's College, MacNeil currently resides in Toronto. He has interviewed hundreds of acts ranging from Metallica and AC/DC to Daniel Lanois and Smokey Robinson. MacNeil (modestly referred to as King J to friends), a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, has seen the Rolling Stones in a club setting, thereby knowing he will rest in peace at some point down the road. Oh, and he writes for PopMatters.com.


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