How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Dancing on A'A documents the improvising quartet Birdsongs of the Mesozoic early in their second decade. It's highly unusual for a group of improvisers to stick together for over 20 years, but this is hardly an average group. While other stable musical units might doggedly pursue the same style to perfection, Birdsongs aims for the anti-style. Anything that crosses genre boundaries is fair game for this group.
On Dancing on A'A, electric and acoustic instruments arrive at fruitful collisions. Birdsongs mix and match idioms like ingredients in the hands of a master chef. Regular beats and samples might bundle up with an exploratory saxophone solo, as on "Readymen." On the title track, quiet collective improvisation eventually sparks a pulsing groovewhich, in turn, pins down an anthemic melody with intertwining electric guitar and saxophone lines.
True to the postmodern sensibility, Birdsongs use irony and contrast as primary tools. Unlike Naked City, to which the first track and "Peter Gunn" evoke obvious comparisons, Birdsongs mostly avoid blending clichés... and no single individual takes charge. While each player may be a virtuoso musician in his own right, the magic of Dancing on A'A comes from the overarching (albeit twisted) vision of the group as a whole. This disc deserves attention from listeners with an interest in genre-defying adventurism; stodgy purists are best advised to stay away.
Track Listing: A Band of Deborahs (not Debbies); Dancing on A'A; Ptinct; Readymen; Birdgam; Electric Altamira; Swamp; Peter Gunn; Ray; Sirius the Scorching; The Pearly Eyed March.
Personnel: Michael Bierylo: guitar, MIDI programming, percussion; Ken Field: alto and soprano saxophones, flute, percussion, synthesizer, and King Cleveland Slide Saxoprano; Erik Lindgren: piano, synthesizer, Farfisa Chord Organ, samples, drum programming, percussion; Rick Scott: synthesizers, electronic and acoustic percussion, abbreviated clarinet.