Andrew Bird — Echolocations: Canyon
ζ≡ Singer, violinist, whistler. Recorded in the Coyote Gulch canyons of Utah, Echolocations: Canyon is first in a series of short films and recordings by Andrew that document site specific compositions in exceptional national and urban environments.
Born: July 11, 1973, Lake Forest, Illinois, United States
Location: Coyote Gulch canyons of Utah
Album release: February 3, 2015
Record Label: Wegawam Music Co.
01. Sweep The Field 7:14
02. Groping The Dark 10:43
03. Rising Water 5:09
04. Antrozous 7:06
05. The Return Of Yawny 3:47
06. Before The Germans Came 8:05
07. The Canyon Wants To Hear C Sharp 8:52
© Andrew Bird
BY RUSS BASHAW, FEBRUARY 9TH, 2015
ζ≡ Tucked away in the southern area of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Utah lies Coyote Gulch, many a hikers mission with its beautiful canyons, trails, and oasis like streams that trickle through exposed desert and damp canyons. It's here of all places that Andrew Bird has recorded an album. Actually, a short film and an album.
ζ≡ Ambient in design and somewhat in execution, Echolocations: Canyon features classic and improvised arrangements by Bird in a natural environment. The trickling of a stream is heard throughout "Sweep The Field", and "Groping the Dark", the albums first two tracks. Strangely enough it's missing on "Rising Water" which is a haunting piece appropriately named. Nothing on Echolocations: Canyon is going to blow the listener away, this is an ambient album where quiet space is often used to great effect. Bird is just as apt to use a moment of silence as he is a high violin bar or trademark whistle. The result is for the most part positive if you can remain locked into the album for it's entire duration (50 minutes). This isn't an album you'll be listening to with friends or poolside at the summer barbecue. This is an album for flexing solitude. Songs like "Antrozous" and personal favorite "The Canyon Wants to Hear C Sharp" move at the pace of a Buddhist monk, slow, and yet in complete harmony. This is music for being cognizant of all surroundings. For those familiar with ASMR or classical compositions used as sleep aids, Echolocations: Canyon is a treat.
Echolocations: Canyon is the first in a series of planned recordings for Bird who hopes to captures what he calls "site specific compositions in exceptional national and urban environments". While some might find the idea better than the implementation, patience rewards the listener here who lets their mind be taken away from the hustle and bustle of societal obligations to relax for an hour or so meditatively and reflectively at a tranquil place of profound imagination where a violin can turn into a bird's wings. :: http://www.audiohammock.com/
ζ≡ “Andrew Bird & Ian Schneller’s Sonic Arboretum comes to the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston for a 3 month exhibition spanning February 4 — May 10 2015. The installation of 36 speakers feature a brand new ambient composition by Andrew called Echolocations: Canyon.
ζ≡ Recorded in the Coyote Gulch canyons of Utah, Echolocations: Canyon is first in a series of short films and recordings by Andrew that will document site specific compositions in exceptional national and urban environments.”
ζ≡ Le son du canyon est toujours préférable au son du canon!
ζ≡ Recorded in the Coyote Gulch canyons of Utah, Echolocations: Canyon is first in a series of short films and recordings which document site specific compositions performed by Andrew Bird and filmed by Tyler Manson in exceptional natural and urban environments. Bird says:
ζ≡ “Ever since I was a child I would test different spaces with my voice or whistle or violin. Whatever sound you make it’s like a giant limb that can reach beyond your fingers and grope the corners of the room. Now when I’m on tour playing a different theater every night we “tune” the room, hunting down the bass traps and the standing waves to give the listener the most even and wide spectrum of sound. There are certain frequencies that resonate while others are lifeless. Sometimes the room refuses to yield and I have to consider playing different songs that will work in that room. It’s a challenge but I enjoy the moments when I must yield to the environment. So I thought it would be interesting to take all this outside where the reflections off the landscape are triggering countless inferences and steering the conversation.”
ζ≡ The new composition will also be featured in Andrew Bird and Ian Schneller’s “Sonic Arboretum” at the The Institute of Contemporary Art:Boston from February 4th:May 10th. More information can be found at icaboston.org
BREAK IT YOURSELF
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW BIRD
By Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family
Q: Congratulations, Andrew, on the new record! The many instruments and voices on this album glide in and out of the music so naturally that it’s easy to imagine the recording took place in some hypnagogic state in which the entire band was completely attuned to the music of the spheres. Who else plays on the record? Was it all as effortless as it sounds?
A: This is the first time I’ve trusted a group of musicians to just play what they hear and use our collective instincts. The session that yielded this record was to be no more than a weeklong rehearsal. I wanted to show my band these new songs and give us all time and space to feel them out. My long time collaborator Martin Dosh on drums, Jeremy Ylvisaker on guitar and Mike Lewis on bass and tenor came down from Minneapolis. These guys are not mere axemen, they are singular musicians and a total pleasure to be around. We had our front of house engineer Neal Jensen bring his old Tascam 8–track tape machine and Yamaha board (nothing fancy) out to my barn. We rolled tape as we were learning the songs and to our surprise we started nailing the songs by the second take. I think we got a rough, unfussy honesty in this session. A mix of distilled, grounded songs and some wild soloing. This is not the carefully crafted, one–layer–at– a–time puzzle that recording/producing often turns into. This is just musicians playing together in a room.
Q: Your violin has many voices — some as delicate as fine porcelain and others as harsh as howling wind. As a musician do you feel like a medium in a dark room calling out to the spirits?
A: I think the “I am just a vessel through which music passes” idea is suspect. I do think the melody itself can be inhabited by the musician, but they have to be in sync with one another. That’s why I’d usually rather play a new idea that’s been in my head all day rather than the single from the new record.
Q: In the song “Eyeoneye” you sing, “No one can break your heart so you break it yourself.” Do we need our hearts broken? Do aching hearts sing more sweetly just as those mythic violin bows carved from the bones of drowned beauties were said to make the most dulcet tones?
A: Well, I think it might be impossible to break one’s own heart but I thought it was worth bringing up as a possibility. We all know that massaging your own shoulders or cutting your own hair doesn’t feel the same as when someone else does it. The idea that one’s heart has to be broken so that one can know love and therefore have lived, that’s sort of a backward way of going at life.
ζ≡ “Eyeoneye” started when I was having trouble sleeping on tour. Every time I thought about my own eyes they would strain as if they were trying to see themselves (not a pleasant feeling). This got me thinking about other feedback loops in nature, like a teratoma — a kind of tumor thatcopies other cells in the body like hair and teeth, causing one’s immune system to freak out and attack the good teeth and hair cells. If one could break one’s own heart it probably wouldn’t go much better than this. As to whether broken hearts sing sweeter, I’d say no — music is more often an overflowing of joy for me even when the content is sadness or rage.
Q: In “Danse Caribe” a calypso wave of steel drums happily follows your violin as you sing about “mistaking clouds for mountains.” Did you spend months in rags on a deserted beach to write this song or can you write about triumphing over fear and loneliness while rushing through a crowded airport with a rolling bag?
A: Nothing inspires fear and loneliness like a crowded airport. The island is kind of a theme. Are we all basically alone or are we all connected? This song comes from a story my mom tells about me exiling my stuffed animals from my crib when I was 15 months old in a declaration of autonomy. It seems the conclusion I’ve reached through nine records worth of songs that deal with this issue of autonomy is that it’s overrated. I’ll take the comfort of others even if it’s an illusion of security.
Q: In “Give It Away” the music circles between sweetness and dissonance, between a lover’s tryst in the hay and a dark den for asphyxiation. Are beautiful songs like rays of light, their colors only fully revealed as they fall across dark valleys?
A: “Give It Away” is a funny song about feeling as if you’ve taken everything and thrown it into a black hole and the clarity that comes from being so desolate. I wrote this after a show in Belgium where I felt like I had given the last piece of myself to a cold audience. In the van to the airport hotel was when I saw those clouds that looked like mountains in the moonlight and I started laughing. It asks if that energy one gives to an audience or a person is a finite resource.
Q: “Hole in the Ocean Floor” is a lush 8–minute descent that warps and sways as we reach the farthest depths and yet is blissful and expansive even as it plummets. “Near Death Experience” is a tango danced in the cockpit of a crashing airplane. Where do we end up when songs lead us in two directions at once?
A: That friction between the tone of the music and what the lyrics are saying creates the humor and melancholy that helps us deal with it all. If it’s dark on dark my eyes glaze over or I think “are you serious?” In fact, that’s what I was thinking of calling this record, I guess because the songs got into a personal territory that, dare I say, are almost confessional, and that naturally makes me a bit uncomfortable.
Q: What about the instrumental number, “Behind the Barn”? Are there some things that can only be said without words?
A: Once someone opens their mouth to sing our expectations and attention span changes. We expect a story. I also think the listener needs a break in a record that is relentlessly from a single person’s point of view.
Q: “Lusitania” and “Fatal Shore” both reference historical tragedies but are ultimately about the pain of a broken heart. Must we know the horrors of history before we can fully appreciate the beauty of a single heartbeat?
A: Remember Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Castaway” being devastated by the loss of his surrogate friend, a soccer ball crudely resemblinga human head? The answer is no, it can happen in a near vacuum. I just thought the sinking of the Lusitania and the Maine were both incidents in naval history that drew the U.S into conflict. When the song is finished you can say it’s a metaphor for a wounded codependent relationship, for example.
ζ≡ In “Orpheo Looks Back” it’s easy to wonder — can a song itself be lost if we ponder it too closely? Orpheus’s beautiful music led him to be torn apart, his severed head thrown into a river. Are you comforted or cautioned by the knowledge that Orpheus kept singing even as his head floated away from his body?
Q: Hmmm. Floating heads? Desert islands? Floating soccer ball heads? Tom Hanks?
A: As for pondering a song too closely, it doesn’t concern me. Take your song with the Handsome Family “Don’t be Scared” — there’s this guy named Paul who is all alone at home staring out the window and the phone rings just once late at night like a bird calling out reassuring him that he’s not alone. No amount of pondering is going to demystify this song. This song always reminds me how little needs to be said to draw in the listener and stoke their imagination.
Q: The last song, “Belles,” is mostly bells, crickets and violin. Gradually the music fades until we are left amid a chorus of crickets. It’s a mysteriously hopeful way to end a record — expansive as a room with all the windows suddenly opened, but also tinged with longing for the music that has faded away. Is this what it feels like to break your own heart open?
A: I’ll let you know if/when I’m successful.