Bird Show | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bird Show 

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Ben Vida has created cyclical minimalist compositions with Town and Country, textured improvisations with Pillow, Steely Dan-style pop songs with Central Falls, and pensive acoustic guitar instrumentals on his 1999 solo debut, Mlps. (Boxmedia). Restraint is the only real common denominator--Vida brings a certain cool clarity to each endeavor. By contrast, Green Inferno (Kranky), the first album by his latest project, Bird Show, is as murky and mysterious as a rain forest. Vida assembled the tracks alone in his apartment, layering rasping violins and droning accordions over a distant backdrop of bluesy guitars and field recordings of exotic birds. On "Kind Light" his prayerful vocals create a ritual atmosphere, rising like a wisp of incense from a shimmering expanse of gongs, cicadas, and helicopters. Elsewhere he seems to have discovered a newfound sense of abandon; on the percussion workouts "Tracers" and "All Afternoon," he layers thumb pianos and shakers into a sound track for some exuberant pagan ceremony. Bird Show's approach and instrumentation aren't fixed; in April, when Vida hit the road with Greg Davis (see Saturday) and Keith Fullerton Whitman, he mainly used CD-Rs, violin, and vocals, and his haunting songs surfaced like rocks at low tide at pivotal moments in the trio's dense, droning improvisations. At these shows he'll play new material, backed by his brother Adam on drums. Ida headlines, Bird Show plays third, Elizabeth Elmore plays second, and Sanawon opens. Bird Show also plays Thursday, June 9, at the Empty Bottle; see Critic's Choice for Spires That in the Sunset Rise. Sun 6/5, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 at the door, 18+.

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