Andrew Bird Andrew BirdUseless Creatures
That Andrew Bird is a lover of instrumental music was already clear (it’s unusual for him not to include at least a couple of instrumental songs, of central importance, in each of his albums). What wasn’t so clear was that he would end up putting out an album that is entirely and exclusively instrumental, and that this wouldn’t be limited to supplementing another album. This is how “Useless Creatures” was born, as a bonus album for the deluxe edition of “Noble Beast”, his latest work; but the depth and consistency of the album in question led Fat Possum to decide to release it as another item in the Chicago musician’s catalogue. It might also be known as the perfect soundtrack for the fairytale with the gloriously disenchanted ending that was “Noble Beast”.
But let’s start at the beginning. Bird calls this album his “experimental ambient” album. And it’s true that he experiments. And the ambient is less folky than we expected, considering the image that he gives (his albums are treatises on sad songs with three-day beards). The (electric) road trotting of “Hot Math” is enough to show us that we aren’t looking at an album built around the acoustic guitar. Bird likes chamber experiments, and you can tell: “Carrion Suite”, which any way you look at it is the best (and deepest) cut on the album, is a masterful sound piece, which starts with a romantic dinner next to the Hudson and turns into a classic of the latest Japanese poetic cinema, evolving into a night spent in Latin Quarter bars, with Spanish guitars and everything, to end up melting into a bizarre suite that moves off towards pop.
There are cuckoo clocks abandoned in the middle of the forest ( “Master Sigh”) and cello playing under the mantle of a powerful violin, with an almost fairytale quality ( “You Woke Me Up” sounds like a less mainstream Yann Tiersen); there are spectral creatures convinced that someone will pull them out of the hole ( “Dissent” is, along with the long, disturbing “The Barn Tapes”, his most sinister cut) and there are wild animals in the middle of the jungle ( “Nyatiti”, or “how tribal percussion can fit into a supposedly pop song”). Then there are the 49 noisy seconds of “Spinney” and an ethereal farewell ( “Sigh Master”). As I said, it’s a curious, suggestive experiment, in which, by the way, he had help from Glenn Kotche ( Wilco) and Todd Sickafoose (on the bass) as guest stars. Especially suitable for a stormy afternoon with a view of a leafy forest, or for a sunny, disturbing Sunday picnic (maybe also in the forest).
Andrew Bird - Dissent
Andrew Bird - You Woke Me Up