Andrew Bird, Soldier On

Amanda Petrusich

By Amanda Petrusich

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Andrew Bird has a rich history of publicly expunging his hard drives: Bird frequently coughs up demos, remixes, outtakes, and live versions of studio tracks for curious fans (see the three-part Fingerlings series) and Solider On — which began as a tour-only EP, sold at European shows — contains more bits of precious Bird detritus, including a demo, a remix, a Dylan cover (“Oh Sister”) and a handful of compilation tracks.

More bits of precious Bird detritus further expose the songwriting process of one of American indie’s most fascinating auteurs.

Most of Bird's live work is based around a much-beloved loop machine: Starting with a steady, circling rhythm track, Bird gently folds in noisemakers — violin, vocals, guitar, horns, whistles — until the song reaches the desired richness. The resulting tracks are heavily textured, often mesmerizing sound-collages, and, as such, it's weirdly enthralling to see them deconstructed or rearranged. Two tracks from 2007's Armchair Apocrypha are modified here, with one becoming bigger (a boisterous remix of “Plasticities”) and the other curling in on itself (“Heretics” is stripped down to just vocals and acoustic guitar). New song “The Water Jet Celice” (not to be mistaken with the song of the same name that popped up on Fingerlings 3) is spectral and spare, especially for Bird — the high, lonesome vocals recall Rufus Wainwright, while the acoustic guitar plucks and swelling arrangements evoke the 1970s British folk so popular with some of Bird's freak-folk contemporaries (see Devendra Banhart).