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Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic: The Iridium Controversy

Like label-mate Djam Karet, Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (BOTM) has a twenty-year-plus performing/recording history, though the casual listener may think their first album with Cuneiform—Faultline, in 1989—was their first (a self-released 12" EP appeared way back in '83). Marking a trail which few other bands have followed, the Massachusetts-based quartet now enjoys a wider audience thanks to word of mouth, more live performances, and the ease of online promotions. BOTM's cerebral "cine-rock" synthesizes jazz, canterbury prog, and classical influences (and more) into one unique animal. Interestingly, BOTM uses three different guest percussionists because none of the core members are drummers: founders Erik Lindgren and Rick Scott handle all piano, organ & synthetic duties, Ken Field is a saxophonist & flutist, and Michael Bierylo plays guitar. Another founding member, Roger Miller, is involved nowadays with Binary Project and Alloy Orchestra, but he's back to play piano on two tracks, and also wrote the liner notes. Conceptualist extraordinaire Roger Dean has captured another glimpse into an otherworldly habitat with his paints and canvas, which graces the front of The Iridium Controversy.

One of BOTM's key compositional components is the interlocking staccato phrase-chain, which is most obvious in the "begun by keyboard—continued by flute—finished by guitar" sort of scheme. This is immediately heard in "Primordial Sludge," as piano, synth, sax, and guitar lines criss-cross into one kaleidoscopic tapestry. The 8-½ minute title track is split into two parts: "—: Before" revolves around an arpeggio on Lindgren's piano, over which layers of sax and percussion are steadily stacked, like a house of cards; Bierylo's guitar initiates the "—:After" portion, which is joined by flute, xylo, and sixteenths on a snare drum to heighten the tension. "Make The Camera Dance" is—dare I say—a little more accessible with its taut synth leads and recurring straight kick drum beat. Field always seems to make his way into the middle of the action. Speaking of, "This Way Out" is a mellower, Field-penned ditty, though it doesn't seem like it with all of Lindgren's minimally-accompanied piano & organ. Adversely, "Sherpas On Parade" might be a better track if Bierylo's Frippian line wasn't suppressed by Field's oppressive sax!

"Lost In The B-Zone" will likely end up making the favorite album tracks lists, it's ripe for casting as the main title of a whodunit~detective mystery. "Race Point" is a quieter, soothing, more ambient piece—sustained flute notes, glassy synth sounds, piano notes liberally sprinkled like sugar. Back to business as usual: a trip-hoppy beat gives way to drummer Larry Dersch's aggressive shuffle and Roger Miller's octopoid piano progression on "The Beat Of The Mesozoic—Part 1." With Miller around, Dersch—the other half of Binary Project—was likely to be close by. After a while, it's apparent there's simply not enough legato to balance all of this staccato, dig? The effect weareth thin. Most evident with The Iridium Controversy (and presumably any BOTM album) are the lack of overt grooves for the listener to lock onto. The grooves are there, but they're a disjointed, jigsawed, patchworky lot, and face it—this is a very "avant"-oriented band, but not to the point an avid listener of jazz or prog would be turned off. One last thing: BOTM do not have a real, live, flesh & blood bass player—having one would make quite a bit of difference. For other RIO fans, listeners of modern classical, and fans of Japanese groups like Il Berlione and Tipographica, this disc will be right up their alley.

Added: October 20th 2003
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic Dot Org
Hits: 4799
Language: english

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