Bird Show Lightning Ghost

[Kranky; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: laptop folk drone, neo-psychedelia, musique concrete, progressive
Others: Circle, Jackie-O Motherfucker, Tower Recordings, Popol Vuh

Lightning Ghost is a superb balance of psych-folk-inflected songcraft and extended, raga-like drones. Experimental but not painfully abstract, the newest release from Bird Show, and their second on Kranky Records, shows the label moving even further away from its staunchly ambient roots and embracing artists who are inclined toward a more electro-acoustic approach. Ben Vida, the man behind Bird Show, could use Lightning Ghost as a veritable do-it-yourself guide to stretching twenty minutes of subtle, skeletal folk tracks into fifty minutes of psychedelic bliss.

Something of an anomaly amidst the current free-folk zeitgeist, Lightning Ghost combines elements of progressive, noise, and space rock with folk to form a unique hybridization, if you will, that stands out among the plethora of Jewelled Antler Collective sound-alikes. Though based steadfastly on repetition and drone, it is nonetheless these two characteristics which make the music of Bird Show so successful. The use of space and dense, gradually shifting textures on Lightning Ghost, which tend to form a sort of cocoon around the primitive, embryonic folk embedded within, adds to these pieces characteristics that are both erratic and oddly meditative in nature.

As Finnish progressive folk has broken past the confines of its frozen, Scandinavian geographical isolation, its influence seems to have touched a number of contemporary North American artists, including Ben Vida. At times Bird Show sound not unlike the Finnish neo-progressive band Circle if they were fronted by Badly Drawn Boy. Like Circle, Bird Show tend to create a groove and run away with it, drawing it out temporally, until it ceases to become redundant and begins to attain an almost spiritual, mantra-like form. Vida wisely intersperses the occasional noodly, prog-flavored guitar lead among these soundscapes, breaking up the homogeneity of the tracks on Lightning Ghost so that they more closely resemble mini-suites than uniform, monotonous drones. Beneath the surface of these pieces resides an undeniable complexity.

Rhythm is also a major factor on Lightning Ghost. Bird Show make extremely liberal use of a wide variety of percussion on the album. Granted, there is a hippie drum circle quality to the pieces, yet the drums are indelibly married to the record's more ambient properties such that they become a clearly necessary component on Lightning Ghost, in a way that is similar to much of the Seventies output of the German progressive/Krautrock band Popol Vuh. The album itself is a dichotomy. Bird Show craft songs that have a distinctly contemporary sound. Yet, within these pieces exists something manifestly primal, almost fundamentally tribal by disposition. Lightning Ghost is an album which will please devotees of both ambient music and beautifully played, yet slightly damaged freak-folk.

1. Field on Water
2. Pilz
3. Seeds
4. First Path Through
5. Beautiful Spring
6. Lightning Ghost
7. Greet the Morning
8. On the Beach
9. Sleepers Keep Sleeping