One of my favourite pieces of music, especially on bright mornings like today, is “A Rainbow In Curved Air” by Terry Riley, a great fluttering organ-led salute to the sun that put a psychedelic spin on the new classical/electronic/minimalist music that came to the fore in the ‘60s.
I mention this because this third album from Ben Vida, aka Bird Show, begins with a delirious flurry of two ascending organs and gently pattering drums that sounds perfectly like a lost Riley track from that time. It’s called, with a certain reductive neatness, “Two Organs And Dumbek”, and it’s a lovely record to put on first thing in the morning. Actually it’s the second we played today, after the Kings Of Leon single we call “Sex Owl” here, but – though it’s OK, actually – let’s forget about that for now.
Vida appears to be from Chicago and also figures in Town And Country, a pretty decent ensemble who always got closer to rarefied chamber minimalism than most of their post-rock contemporaries. This is his third album as Bird Show and, though I suspect I have at least one of the previous two lurking somewhere at home (under “B”, I imagine), “Bird Show” is the first to make a real impression.
Being churlish, I guess the big reason why I like this one so much is the aforementioned pathological similarities between one or two tracks here and Terry Riley; one of those occasions where a homage is justified by virtue of it being so obsessively fastidious. But Vida stretches beyond that, too. Sometimes, as on “Green Vines”, he’ll graft songs onto the gravitational hums, singing in a thin, mildly indie-ish voice (the vocals can be a distraction from the elegant rustles and chimes, on “Wood Flute, Berimbau, Mbira And Voice” for instance).
At other times, on “BRDDRMS” or “Percussion And Voice” say, he’ll strip everything back to bare, trancey percussion, redolent of the Eastern dronemusics which fired up the imaginations of Riley and his contemporaries like Lamonte Young, but which also make me think of those earliest Moondog records, where his oddly resonant home-made instruments took precedence.
On “Pan Pipe Ensemble And Voice”, Vida even manages to reclaim, yep, pan pipes from the world of new age mulch and make something genuinely disorienting with them. And there are more experiments with vintage synths like, um, “Synthesizer Solo”, which match some of the delicate museum trips taken by Matmos on the excellent “Supreme Balloon”. Terry Riley actually guested on a track from the vinyl version of that album, “Hashish Master”, but it’s the giant, gracefully vibrating title track which sits so neatly alongside “Two Organs And Dumbek”, plenty of the last White Rainbow and Arp albums and so on. Good stuff.