(All Album Reviews by Hippy Pants)
When I first bought Birdsongs of the Mesozoic's Sonic Geology a few years back, I really had no idea about the band or their music. I picked it up on a lark, having read a small blurb about them from a Wayside Music leaflet around that time. I was trying to stretch my boundaries a bit. But when I first played it, though, it was too complex and structured for my liking so I filed it away, and would occasionally play it when in a more serious mood. The funny thing now is, I really don't think it's that serious or complex of a work. Yes, it does have its moments, and I guess one could label it avant-prog, yet at the same time I find it accessible in some ways.
Sonic Geology is really a compilation from three of the Birdsongs earlier albums: Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Magnetic Flip, and Beat of the Mesozoic from Ace of Hearts records. The Birdsongs, at least two of its members, came out of a punk/new wave band called Mission to Burma. Mission to Burma were sort of an art punk band similar in vein to Gang of Four, Wire, and Pere Ubu, among others. Some of that punk sensibility can be felt on a few of the songs on Sonic Geology, not in the angst, but in the unbridled creativity. The disk also contains two unreleased numbers, “Pulse Piece”, which sort of reminds me of the Steve Reich album, Music for Eighteen Musicians–in that it pulses like trance music. Also it includes, “The Common Sparrow”, a moody ambient piece with voice snippets that reminds me a bit of something off the Robert Fripp Exposure album.
So how would I describe Sonic Geology? Varied, unclassifiable, complex, electronic, advant-prog, neo-classical, punkish in some of its attitudes, Zappesque, chamber-like, textured, at times accessible, and a lot of fun and imaginative. Whew, that's a lot, and probably some more abounds. In short I like it. How many bands would attempt Stravinsky's “Rite of Spring” only to follow that by some music influenced by the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show? There's also music on the CD that sounds a bit like Eno from his film music ambient albums, some loop guitar songs that remind me of some crazy punk or industrial stuff, some trance, some avant-garde chamber music similar in tone to Univers Zero, yet not quite so dark. Ambience and cacophony collide and yet, it still is pretty accessible as a whole. A lot of this music is more keyboard orientated, so if you enjoy keyboards and synths, you might like this band too.
This is adventurous listening. I recommend it to those that are so inclined. I really think the Birdsongs have upped the ante for the state of progressive music here, and this is one of their earlier releases. I can only imagine how much they've progressed with their newest release on the Cuneiform label, The Iridium Controversy. I can hardly wait to hear it.