Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Music Review: Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic - Dawn Of The Cycads
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic was formed out of the ashes of Mission Of Burma. Guitarist Roger Miller folded the legendary post-punk band in 1983 due to severe tinnitus. He began collaborating with fellow Bostonian Erik Lindgren, with whom he had previously appeared with in the band Moving Parts.
Lindgren's studio provided the perfect environment for Miller's quieter piano pieces. When the duo's "Pulse Piece" was selected for inclusion in the Boston area sampler A Wicked Good Time, Birdsongs' career began in earnest.
In addition to Lindgren's formidable Moog talents, keyboardist Rick Scott and "tape manipulator" Martin Swope completed this initial Birdsongs lineup.
Dawn Of The Cycads contains all of the material the band released on the tiny Ace Of Hearts label. From 1983 to 1987, Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic released two EPs, one full-length Lp, and one live album. The live recording, Between Fires is from a 1987 show and contains seven tracks, all save a version of "Pulse Piece" were previously unreleased.
Listening to Birdsongs' music has always been a rewarding endeavor, but describing their music can be a challenge. The New York Times once called them "The world's hardest rocking chamber quartet." Their music owes a definite debt to the minimalism of Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, but there is much more to it as well.
Birdsongs are best represented by their sole full-length LP, Magnetic Flip (1984). The band stakes out a pretty wide territory here. From the opening rocker "Shiny Golden Snakes" to the reflective "Final Motif," this record is a tour de force of styles.
Birdsongs show their classical chops ala Emerson, Lake & Palmer with "The Rite Of Spring (Excerpts)," then go in a completely opposite direction by covering the Rocky and Bullwinkle theme. Best of all is "Terry Riley's House," a tribute to the minimalist pioneer.
Of the two EPs, Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (1983) and Beat Of The Mesozoic (1986), I prefer the first one. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a great melody, but tracks like "The Orange Ocean" and "Sound Valentine" really define the quieter side of the band for me.
Beat Of The Mesozoic finds the group exploring Jean Michel Jarre territory on "Scenes From a ..." and "Waterwheel." The title song is a very powerful rocker that caps off the collection in an appropriate manner.
One of the coolest aspects of Dawn Of The Cycads is the extras included on disc 2. They can be accessed from any computer, and include gig posters, set lists, reviews, even sheet music to four of the songs. There are also some dioramas for fans to cut out and play with, which I assume were included in the original vinyl releases.
For Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic fans, Dawn Of The Cycadscan hardly be beat in terms of their early career. Believe it or not, they are still around, nearly 30 years later. Keep on rocking in the opera house, guys.