Never heard of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic? Well, this is their 11th album! Maybe album titles like “Pyroclastics” (1992), “Dancing on a ‘A” (1995) or “Petrophonics” (2001) rings a bell. But don’t be mislead by the beautiful album cover of Roger Dean. Birdsongs performed at the opening for Dean’s solo show at NYC’s Grant Gallery in spring 2003. Dean and Birdsongs met at Nearfest 2001; Dean designed the festival’s official logo and was special guest, while Birdsongs performed as part of that year’s event. Eventually all this resulted in the beautiful artwork for the cover of “The iridium controversy”. But don’t expect Yes music! Someone described the band as a rocking chamber quartet who creates innovative instrumental music that fuses rock, classical, minimalism and jazz. I agree with this statement. But also with the text on the package which speaks of excitingly unclassifiable music.
Erik Lindgren – acoustic grand piano, washboard, acetone organ; Ken Field – saxophones, flutes, percussion; Rick Scott – synthesizer, piano, percussion; Michael Bierylo – guitar, programming, sound design, floor tom
Larry Dersch – percussion, drums; Terry Donahue – percussion, djembe; Roger Miller – piano; Eric Paull – drums; Ken Winokur – percussion
At the moment I’m seriously thinking how I could realize to include some soundclips in my reviews. Because ... how must I explain to you what I have just heard. The best thing is to hear it for yourself. For sure this is progressive music. With the quality of bands like After Crying and Isildurs Bane. But it sounds often different from those mentioned bands. It is more a mix of modern classical, minimalism and jazz music. This sounds very heavy and difficult but the album has also a kind of lightness over it that could make it also digestible for the more adventurous prog fan.
The album consists out of twelve tracks. “Primordial sludge” (5:45), “The iridium controversy: Before” (2:59), “The iridium controversy: After” (5:30), “Make the camera dance” (7:19), “This way out” (4:21), “Lost in the B-Zone” (4:47), “Teetonic mélange” (4:08), “Sherpas on parade” (6:03), “100 years of excellence” (5:42), “Race point” (3:57), “Centrifuge” (4:08) and “The beat of the Mesozoic – Part 1” (6:14).
“Primordial sludge” is the heavy progressive rock/jazz fusion opener (with National Health references) of this intriguing album. “The iridium controversy: Before” brings the name of Phillip Glass into my mind. “The iridium controversy: After” reminds me more of National Health. “Make the camera dance” has a pumping bass, Phillip Glass like rhythms and a soaring saxophone. “This way out” is more a ballad with beautiful melodic lines on piano and saxophone. “Lost in the B-Zone” has again that pumping bass as foundation. “Teetonic mélange” opens mysteriously with a dark sounding piano. But has also heavy jazz rhythms and modern keyboard programming. “Sherpas on parade” sounds to me as a mix between the Dutch Solution and National Health but then a little different … the middle and end section is steaming progrock. I find this a monster track. “100 years of excellence” includes delicate flute and classical piano. This piece brings the name of After Crying to my mind. The beautiful arrangements of “Race point” remind me of Isildurs Bane. “Centrifuge” has also beautiful flute and piano parts. While listening to this track the name of After Crying’s latest album “Show” crossed my mind. Throughout the whole album there is a lot of percussion, but the closing track “The beat of the Mesozoic – Part 1” is drenched in percussion and drums.
As you have already noticed, I have great difficulty to describe the music of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. It is indeed highly original and unclassifiable music. This is of course a compliment for the band. And the quality of the compositions is on such high level that I would mention the names of two of the real progressive bands of this decade; Isildurs Bane and After Crying. Birdsongs of the Mesozoic is a rocking chamber quartet who creates innovative instrumental music that fuses rock, classical, minimalism and jazz. Highly recommended for the adventurous prog fan.