Birdsongs of the Mesozoic: The Iridium Controversy (2003)
A professed "aural pangaea," the latest effort by Boston's Birdsongs of the Mesozoic certainly conjoins more than its share of musical continents. The quartet features personnel first documented on 1995's Dancing on A'A, plus five additional guests who mostly round out the percussion department. Notably present is ex-Mission of Burma icon Roger Miller (piano on two tracks). Miller played an instrumental role in getting the group off the ground back in the the '80s, along with pianist Erik Lindgren. Since that time players have popped in and out, but the current lineup (Lindgren plus Ken Field, Rick Scott, and Michael Bierylo) seems quite stable and sympathetic. Everyone plays multiple instruments both electric and acoustic.
The Iridium Controversy is serious and rather self-conscious music, but not without ample moments of levity and celebration. Half the pieces are penned by Lindgren, the rest consistent enough to render facile comparisons pointless. After the eager and rather forward opener, the first of two title tracks (subtitled "Before") departs from this rocking energy toward a docile chamber sound that's almost baroque in its counterpoint and clarity. Its successor, "After," builds on military beats to assemble an optimistic prog-rock colossus, high-riding melodies alternating with periods of restraint.
Bierylo next interrupts this seeming clarity with a pointed collection of polyrhythms. Rick Scott's appropriately titled "Tectonic Melange" goes from deep held notes to an upbeat group improvisation. The most openly rock-oriented piece is "Sherpas on Parade," while "Race Point" offers yet more orchestral textures. It's a very strange combination of approaches, heavy on composition but often quite light in tone. Since it's often hard to distinguish the voices involved, Birdsongs melds into a shifting, shimmering entity.
Pangaea or Panthalassa, it's all the same. Lots of connections from lots of places. A fitting fusion for four restless spirits who refuse to settle down.
Scores and MIDI files for these compositions can be found at Birdsongs of the Mesozoic online.
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Track Listing: Primordial Sludge; The Iridum Controversy: Before; The Iridium Controversy: After; Make the Camera Dance; This Way Out; Lost in the B-Zone; Tectonic Melange; Sherpas on Parade; 100 Years of Excellent; Race Point; Centrifuge; The Beat of the Mesozoic, Part 1.
Personnel: 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. Guests: Larry Dersch, Terry Donahue, Roger Miller, Eric Paull, Ken Winokur.