Simona Smirnova wants to show you who she is. On her recently released LP, Bird Language, the Lithuania-born, New York-based vocalist/composer forgoes the fictional narrative elements that characterized her previous releases, instead crafting a sonic portrait of the artist and the world that has shaped her. “Both of my previous records were inspired by a fictional or historical figure,” says Smirnova. “For this third album, I wanted to represent myself as I am. Rather than shielding myself with a fictional character, this record is meant to expose me as a person and musician.”
Smirnova has been creating Bird Language for the past three years, writing and arranging compositions at her piano, demoing and recording alongside a jazz quartet, reworking and performing the arrangements, and ultimately teaming up with co-producer Maksim Perepelica and engineer Mike Marciano at Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in Queens, NY to record the album. Though Smirnova is the core vocalist, composer and songwriter, her ensemble for Bird Language also includes saxophonist Berta Moreno, pianist Caili O’Doherty, drummer Maxime Cholley, violinists Adrianne Munden-Dixon and Caroline Drexler, violist Carrie Frey, cellist Julia Henderson, background vocalists Takuma Matsui and Harini "Rini" Raghavan, and Perepelica on bass. To put the finishing touches on
Bird Language, Smirnova sent the album to Grammy Award winning mixing/mastering engineer Dave Darlington, best known for his work with Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and on the HBO series Oz.
Although Bird Language is a more personal record than Smirnova’s previous LPs—2017’s A Hunger Artist and 2020’s Joan of Arc, For String Quartet—the new album doesn’t rely on purely confessional songwriting, but rather explores Smirnova’s relationship to the natural world, nature’s relationship with humanity, and humanity’s relationship with one another. “This whole album is nature themed,” says Smirnova. “I’ve always been very connected to nature and now in my daily life I advocate for the green movement, conscious living, and things like that, but I wanted to create music that shows an appreciation for nature from a deeper perspective.”
Bird Language kicks off with its title track, opening with fluttering avian vocalizations before developing into an avant-garde piece of Eastern European-tinged jazz/exotica that sets the stage for the remainder of the album and introduces Smirnova’s unique style and affection for the natural world. The following track, “Volcano Dreams,” channels groundbreaking artists like Bjork and Joanna Newsom while exploring the ways that humans are connected through the physical land beneath our feet. “Just like tectonic plates, people might be sometimes very close to each other but constantly shifting,” says Smirnova. “When plates collide, they form explosive volcanoes, and I always saw that as a good representation of people’s relationships to one another.”Read more
- Bird Language by Giulia Bianchi