Who says the violin can’t work in popular music? Chicago native Andrew Bird might not be wildly popular as other musicians might appear to be, but he has maintained an impressive catalog of alternative folk music spanning nearly twenty years, and he has yet to put down his violin. Bird presents another delightful, this time mostly-instrumental EP titled I Want To See Pulaski At Night released on Mom + Pop Music. While mostly lacking vocals, Bird’s ambitious instrumentation and song-writing promises a deep and thought-provoking listening experience in under thirty-three minutes.
Ethio Invention No. 1 is a continuation Bird’s best and brightest talent, particularly from “Break It Yourself”, beautifully showcasing the fairly uncommon instrumentation of the violin through pizzicato (to pluck the strings). Bird plays at a bright and energetic tempo and then plays bright violin melodies in arco (using the bow). One could lose themselves very easily in the environment that Andrew Bird has created, and it is very much alive. Bird plays his violin with tremendously rich harmony, providing a very soothing and relaxing introduction to yet another great recording from the alternative folk music veteran.
Lit From Underneath introduces another playful and reflective violin pizzicato melody joined with rich cello pizzicato. Bird introduces his characteristic whistling into the song, giving it a rather reflective and sentimental tone. The whistling melody is very enjoyable. The way Bird plays his violin in pizzicato, especially when playing chords (not easy to do in pizzicato on a violin, of all instruments); it gives his violin so much more breath and energy. Once Bird finally begins to play in arco, the deeper and richer violin melody works tremendously well with Bird’s whistling melody and pizzicato rhythms.
Logan’s Loop is a short song, and Bird plays in pizzicato much faster here than he has elsewhere in I Want To See Pulaski At Night. Bird keeps a good rhythm in emphasizing higher pitched notes while playing with an open D string.
Pulaski At Night is the only song on the EP to feature Andrew Bird’s voice. Slow pizzicato is followed soon by Bird’s vocals, but the song quickly picks up to feature a beautiful arco violin melody. Bird’s vocals are emotional, yet they still seem a bit reserved. Bird’s violin trills are absolutely gorgeous and his vocals become more endearing. The harmony of Pulaski At Night is rather beautiful when Bird syncs his vocals with his arco violin performance.
Hover I is slow and sounds folk and possibly even bluegrass or Appalachia influenced. Bird plays some nice double stops in arco and soft piano can be heard in the background. The song transitions back to pizzicato, which sounds very pretty playing in unison with the piano, creating a very unique arrangement between the two. Ascending and descending melodies transition seamlessly into Hover II.
Hover II glides into the spotlight with soft, deep pizzicato. Bird layers higher pitched pizzicato on top to play in unison, but the higher pitched melody soon forms its own unique melody and rhythm. The arco violin performance is layered on top of that, and in turn provides a very deep and rich harmony that is very reflective and relaxing in nature. These harmonious arco violin layers are very reminiscent violin players in the post-rock genre, such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor or A Silver Mt. Zion. It’s a gorgeous harmony.
Ethio Invention No. 2 begins the end of the EP with an ethereal and atmospheric ambiance, quickly followed by ascending pizzicato that gradually descends. A brief period of silence follows before Bird returns with a hearty pizzicato rhythm. Bird layers his pizzicato rhythms and melodies with great arrangement and organization. Very gorgeous, very expressive arco violin enters, almost fluttering in energy. Bird is able to use his pizzicato rhythms in conjunction with his arco rhythms, yet still maintains beautiful and refreshing contrast for tone. A simple, yet sentimental arco melody returns featuring Bird’s polished talent in violin performance. His vibrato technique is fantastic and very well refined for an alternative folk musician.
I Want To See Pulaski At Night is an EP well-suited for personal reflection. Andrew Bird is quite talented in crafting beautiful, layered landscapes allowing the listener to escape from whatever troubles they may be having to enjoy some truly beautiful music. In terms of technical ability, Bird has exceptional prowess and tenacity to play his violin in pizzicato in addition to playing more traditionally in arco. One might be understandably disappointed to hear Bird sing only in Pulaski At Night, but for those who don’t mind the extra room in instrumental music to draw their own interpretations and conclusions about the music; this EP is a real treat for you.
Artist: Andrew Bird
Release: I Want To See Pulaski At Night
Discogs: Released: 2013-11-12
Label: Mom + Pop
Format: WEB, CD, Vinyl, LP, EP
Style: folk, alternative, instrumental
01. Ethio Invention No. 1 (6:26)
02. Lit From Underneath (3:15)
03. Logan’s Loop (1:09)
04. Pulaski At Night (4:49)
05. Hover I (3:29)
06. Hover II (4:41)
07. Ethio Invention No. 2 (8:18)