Andrew Bird

Weather Systems, Fargo
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The Independent Culture

This is the first I've heard of Andrew Bird, an idiosyncratic talent whose five previous albums have apparently featured him wearing a wide range of musical hats, from neo-traditionalist folkie through psychedelic revivalist and maverick experimentalist to ambient soundscaper. Weather Systems may be the oddest of the lot, a nominal album built around Bird's multilayered violin parts. He's no bluegrass fiddler, mind: songs such as "I" and "Lull" feature interlocking pizzicato figures, brushed snare, maybe a little acoustic-guitar-picking or glockenspiel highlights, with high-pitched keening drones or gently rhapsodic sweeps of violin. On several pieces, his vibrato whistling adds another quirky flavour, akin to the spooky glissandi of a theremin. Bird's weary vocals contribute a smoky, nonchalant quality reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright, as he rolls out undulating streams of beat poetry marked by an acute self-consciousness: "I was getting ready to be a threat/ I was getting set for my accidental suicide/ The kind where no one dies and no one looks too surprised/ And then you realise/ You're riding on the perilous success/ Of a heavy-handed metaphor/ And you're feeling like you've been here before..." At times, it's like listening to an Ourobouros worm eat its own tail, but when it works, it's like Radiohead-meet-Lambchop - an intriguing collision.