Album Review: Andrew Bird – Echolocations: River

By Emily DiAlbert, Contributor
[Wegawam; 2017]
Rating: 5/10

Key Tracks: “Lazuli Bunting”

Chicago-born Andrew Bird is a modern-day classical lyricist and instrumentalist, playing the violin since the age of four. Echolocations: River is the second LP in Bird’s Echolocations instrumental series, in which the violinist plays to the room he’s in. For Echolocations: River, Bird produced and recorded a captivating, shimmering symphony while standing in the Los Angeles River underneath the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Each track bewitches listeners, even those that aren’t particularly fond of lyric-less music. The record is a working art that links each track to the previous, creating a full orchestral masterpiece that is required to be listened to as a whole. Each track contains many working parts and instruments that all combine to tell a story—the river’s story.

The album begins with “The Cormorants”, which tells the story of the river’s native cormorant bird. Soft violin screeches out with the noise of the flowing river in the background. Bird plucks away on the violin’s strings, creating a soft yet provoking narrative, giving listeners insight to one of the many components of the Los Angeles River’s residents. This track is only a warm-up for what the LP delivers later, giving only a small sneak-preview of Bird’s entrancing talent.

“Ellipses” does a much better job at highlighting the way Bird incorporates various instruments in spellbinding ways. While still giving listeners the sound of the flowing river, Bird incorporates violin plucks, trills and high-pitched screeches. The song steadily crescendos heeding to a powerful intermingling of each violin component. As the song progresses, the noise of the river gets louder and faster, sounding as if it’s raging downward. It’s a dark yet dazzling exploration of the power of water.

“Lazuli Bunting” shows a story of another native river bird. The song begins with slow clapping and violin plucks that coincide. The progressive tone of the track combines the plucks and claps with high-and-low-pitched violin strokes, generating an airy, jubilant and powerful melody that takes listeners on a journey alongside the river native. It is the most uplifting track on the record, highlighting a more animated, less-intimidating piece of the river.

The downsides to this album lie in the fact that instrumental music can become tedious to listen to after a while. As the album progresses, the songs all seem to mesh together. While they’re beautiful and dynamic, they all begin to sound the same. However, the combination of art and life that is depicted in this album deserves significant praise. Without including a word about it, Bird shows the mysterious and provoking power of water and highlights the wondrous lives of the creatures that reside on riverbanks. It’s rare to see a modern symphony, especially one that does as excellent of a job at creating a musical depiction of existence. Echolocations: River fashions a symphony that honors nature and life, all by one talented violinist.

Listen here:

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