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Birds and Buildings: Bantam to Behemoth

Washington, D.C.'s Birds and Buildings is one of those progressive-rock bands that, despite several spins, is still tough to grasp. Even the group's name and album title are confounding. But echoes of King Crimson and Gentle Giant, blasts of bebop with sax, clarinet and flute, and distorted almost buried vocals make Bantam to Behemoth a tempting spin for adventurous listeners.

Musical themes are repeated throughout this nine-song, 69-minute disc, and band members claim the mostly-instrumental album adheres to an epic concept dealing with collision, evolution and conflict (although it's sometimes difficult to follow). Birds and Buildings suggests listeners divide the album into three sets of three songs each which makes this music seem less daunting. Among the highlights is the curiously titled 10-and-a-half-minute "Yucatan 65: The Agitation of the Mass," which begins with an acoustic guitar and flute before evolving into a prog workout that would make both King Crimson and the Flower Kings proud.

With the exception of drums, all instruments were recorded by the musicians themselves in their home studios. And although the album has not been professionally mixed or mastered, it still sounds superior to many independent releases.

Track Listing:
1) Birds Flying Into Buildings
2) Terra Fire
3) Tunguska
4) Caution Congregates and Forms a Storm
5) Chronicle of the Invisible River of Stone
6) Yucatan 65: The Agitation of the Mass
7) Chakra Khan
8) Battalion
9) Sunken City, Sunny Day

Added: May 20th 2008
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Birds and Buildings on MySpace
Hits: 4378

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Birds and Buildings: Bantam to Behemoth
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-05-20 17:50:25
My Score:

Somehow channeling the spirit of such 70's acts like Soft Machine, National Health, Gentle Giant, Happy the Man, Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson, Washington, DC prog band Birds and Buildings offer up plenty of intriguing sounds on their hot debut Bantam to Behemoth. Comprised of keyboard player/guitarist Dan Britton, drummer Malcolm McDuffle, Brian Falkowski on sax, flute, & clarinet, and Brett d'Anon on bass & guitars, Birds and Buildings have obviously studied their prog & fusion heroes well, so if you are a lover of classic sounds, you've come to the right place. Opening cut "Birds Flying Into Buildings" is a tour-de-force of adventurous progressive fusion, sort of like a head-on collision between Soft Machine, Gentle Giant, and King Crimson, with Falkowski's sinewy sax melodies soaring over intricate guitar riffs and ominous Mellotron choirs. "Terra Fire" , which features some Canterbury styled vocals from Britton (think Hatfield and the North), is a bouncy, jazzy piece, which then leads into the atmospheric prog of "Tunguska", another vocal number with complex rhythms, tricky electric piano, and snaking sax lines. The dramatic middle section sees the band churning out some intense Gentle Giant inspired workouts.

Wonderful bass melodies from d' Anon (who must be a Chris Squire or Jon Camp fan) lead off the gorgeous "Caution Congregates and Forms a Storm", a near 11-minute epic that hits all the right spots, including many daring and powerful instrumental passages that will thrill lovers of complex prog rock. The more pastoral "Chronicle of the Invisible River of Stone" features the lovely vocals of Megan Wheatley, as well as plenty of lush acoustic guitar, piano, and flute. Speaking of flute, Falkowski once again struts his stuff on the majestic "Yucatan 65: The Agitation of the Mass", another near 11-minute track that blends wild acoustic guitar workouts with creepy Mellotron, tribal sounding percussion, sinewy bass licks, and just layers and layers of dreamy sounds. A real winner for sure.

The last third of the CD contains some splendid tunes as well, starting off with the driving "Chakra Khan", another complex fusion/Canterbury piece with stabbing sax, busy drum work from McFuffle, and crunchy organ & guitar riffs. I was reminded of The Tangent on "Battalion", a quirky rocker with lots of jazz fire, and the CD closes with the gentle "Sunken City, Sunny Day", permeating with majestic piano and sumptuous Mellotron.

It's hard not to like an album like this is you cherish the prog classics of yesteryear. Dan Britton, who also puts in time with Cerebus Effect and Deluge Grander, has really put together something special here with his cohorts in Birds and Buildings. Bravo guys.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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