Bird Show is comprised solely of multi-instrumentalist Ben Vida and finds it source from the ambient lo-fi jamming of Vida’s home recordings. Lightning Ghost is Bird Show’s second album, following 2005’s debut Green Inferno, and legend would have it that the sophomore release has seen Vida’s sound become more vocal based whilst simultaneously moving into tighter song structures.
With the home recording in mind, the frequent sampling of opiate chanting and the various use of twinkling bells and tambourines, the mood is distinctively organic, the smell distinctively of joss sticks and used yoga mats. These intrinsic qualities both work for and against the album. In overall terms the organic harmony striven for makes very little on this album highly offensive and more so than not gives it a soothing pace and tracks ample room for the listener to meditate and feel at ease. On the other hand, the production highlights problems with individual songs that may have been paved over in the presence of a studio and a producer. Much of Lightning Ghost may well be made up of home-experimental-recordings with the prospect of an intimate quirky sound in store, but too often Vida has maybe too strong a rein on proceedings combined with production that on occasions is plain poor. This is illustrated by the second track “Pilz” which opens with a cacophony or hotchpotch of synth sounds, noodling, tambourines and bongo, that despite the multitude of sounds lacks a live-feel, sounding more like Vida’s been pissed on pro-tools.
The focus of the majority of songs and their lyrics here do, however, remain a mystery.
Evidently, the emphasis of the album is on a blissed out sound that wants to remain directionless and interesting. The first track and indeed a lot of the vocals have a whacked out Spiritualised _Ladies and Gentleman…_-era vibe to them with slightly off-key melodic chanting that slowly dictates mantras such as “you cannot separate water from the wave”. The focus of the majority of songs and their lyrics here do, however, remain a mystery. Too often the vocals sound lazy rather than serene with it being difficult to gage the emotional line of them — “Beautiful Spring” a case in point, going something like “take pictures for two, say it was you, turns out so bad send some to you”.
Key to a lot of these tracks is a progressive ceremonial quality which is carried out particularly on the last two tracks of the album, “On the Beech” and “Sleepers Keep Sleeping”. “On the Beech” chugs along nicely to Eastern strings and acoustic strumming that dictates the beat before moving on towards mesmeric synths. Eastern sounding, the track manages to build a strong crescendo of sounds that benefits from being less convoluted than other tracks. Equally, “Sleepers Keep Sleeping” has a pleasant and patient meditative beat that is offset by something sounding a little like a Hurdy Gurdy before displacing into a more Afro-beat style of chanting. And yet, the song suffers when distant vocal protrusions telling us “meditation and hide, medication and quiet, isolation inside” come in sounding distinctly like they’ve been sampled from the Crispian Mills school of rock. Despite the aberration on the latter, the last two tracks do manage to create a successful live movement that suggest Bird Show could be a lot more fun playing out live.
This album will always be an album for hazy days.
Elsewhere, “Greet the Morning” provides an example of a far more conservative approach to song-structure with gentle strumming accompanied by Vida singing rather than chanting, a coherent narrative. Though less ambitious, the song provides a pull that is actually a lot more interesting than others, whilst the sonic experimentation that is present fits more cohesively and suggestively with the overall dynamics of the song.
This album will always be an album for hazy days, if Vida wishes to reach heady days in the future rather than going it alone he should enlist the help of a producer so that future albums may hold more than the glimpses of eastern promise that is occasionally displayed on this one.