Makes you smileThe Biv - Animals (several)
3 3/4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 8, 2006
Review by Brad WalsethThese guys make me smile. One of the surprise bands at the recent Hedgpeth music festival (especially when their "BivBot" appeared unexpectedly onstage with the Flaming Lips), I walked in on the Biv and found myself immediately confronted with a live show that included toy robots, a guitar player (or was he?) reading a book and eating cereal on stage, a drummer wearing an Andy Griffith t-shirt on his head like a turban who suddenly started playing flute in the middle of a song, and a keyboard player who looked (and played) like the unholy offspring of Ray Charles and Carrot Top. On top of their wacky appearance, the music started and stopped and ebbed and flowed effortlessly through mutations and time changes, while prerecorded voices added a ghostly reverberation that was both unsettling and chuckle inducing.
Thankfully their E.P. - Animals (several) captures much of the appeal of this wonderful band. "Deer God" opens with a simple keyboard motif that leads into a locked-in rhythm section leading into another change while what sounds like a Native American elder speaks - then into a hard driving theme, into variations, into etc... the keyboard often providing compelling melodic and counter rhythms to a propulsive bass and drums. Sections instantaneously chill and muse poignantly and then just as surprisingly they kick in on their themes with a potent organ chord attack over a skin tight bottom end, and it hits you like a shotgun blast taking out a wild critter.
"Flaps Down (The Flying Squirrel Comes In For A Landing) follows a similar pattern with a catchy whistling sing-song melody providing the framework for all manner or thematic variations and contrapuntal interludes. These are musicians who aren't afraid to wave their prog flag, although without all the pretentious baggage that often comes with fine musicianship. What is remarkable is how well the players interact together, as on "Mr. Noodle Eating Noodles," where a clever and exciting progression is overlaid with keyboards from hell and what may or may not be an insane Oriental gentleman's utterances.
The Biv remind me of such former groups as "Birdsongs of the Mesozoic" and "Clock DVA," (but with a sense of humor), and this is especially apparent on their magnum opus: "Grizzly People." Featuring voices taken from Werner Herzog's documentary "Grizzly Man" about wildlife activist Timothy Treadwell (who was eaten by one of the bears he was studying), this mini-symphony at times lopes and lumbers like an ursus going downhill, with a deliciously potent organ providing the crunching jaws of death; while at other times it floats like a dragonfly in a meadow, before kicking into memorably snappy yet somehow bittersweet figures (perhaps an honest concern for the destruction of nature under the seemingly silly exterior of the band seeping through?)
"Cabin Fever Burning" closes out the set, and although interesting, is a bit of a let down, especially after having seen and heard the band cut loose on some jazzy improv(?) live, but I am very interested in seeing and hearing what new directions the Biv and their bots take on their next venture. Like I said before, these guys make me smile, and I'll never pass up a chance to add another smile to my paltry collection.
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