Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
Review by Sander R. Wolff, The Union
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic stretches the boundaries of live performance. They work as a quartet, and almost all of the music they play is scored, but there’s this thing, this edge, this dangerous line they walk between classical structure and an auto accident. Most of their pieces go through changes. Bits are calm, beautiful even, with their standard set-up of guitar, piano, keyboard and sax, but it never lasts for long. They switch back and forth, each playing drums, saxophonist Ken Field goes between synthesizer and flute.

“So the fact that any one piece sounds like it has a lot of different styles in it is strictly due to the multiple personalities that the particular composer has,” Field said.

The second cut off their current Cuneiform CD, “Faultline”, is “They Walk Among Us”. It has drumming that sounds a lot like “When the Levee Breaks,” and when asked, guitarist Martin Swope fessed up.

“Actually, all the things that Eric plays [on the piece] are sampled from the Beastie Boys, which are samples they stole from other people. The idea was if it was laundered through the Beastie Boys, it would be ok to do,” said Swope.

“Maybe I Will,”  Rick Scott’s only composition on the record, jumped out at me when I first heard it. It’s complex, with a lot of interplay between the instruments. But again, there was this thing… just 4 notes in the whole piece. “I work in the structure,” said Scott, “and also attempt to figure out how many melodic permutations that I can come up with to maintain peoples’ interest. I try to suggest some harmonic movement, even though it’s a little more dicey. I mean really, when you think about it, you’re dealing with a limited number of notes anyway, with 8 notes or 12 notes maybe. Probably not 12, maybe 11, so changing that to four is really just a matter of degree.” Despite the debate on the number of notes, these guys really know what they’re doing. They’ve existed as a group for almost 10 years, and have been touring extensively on the East Coast. This tour is their first to the West Coast (having discovered that they could fly their equipment for free) and, after tomorrow’s concert at Bogart’s and Wednesday’s show at Club Lingerie in Hollywood, they’re gone.

So if you like challenging music, you’ll love these guys. This Great Religion will open the show, so get there early. And you know that you’ll see me there!

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