Miscellany: Liner Notes

Sonic Geology
liner notes • by Jim Sullivan
Oh, it’s a very categorizable world out there … a world of punk and post-punk, of New Music and New Age, of neo-classical and chamber jazz.

Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic … have taken a stand. They say no to categorization. Theirs is a realm where sounds and sensibilities are on a constant collision course. No one actually gets hurt, but it’s not the most linear of musical rides. Still, if you must, if you’re absolutely determined to peg these unpeggables, you’d have to do something like this: You’d have to include elements drawn from all the above genres, and then add prime influences such as Brian Eno and Igor Stravinsky, and Rocky and Bullwinkle. You’d have to consider how a playful, trashy aesthetic informs what is basically a progressive-minded, avant-garde musical viewpoint. You’d have to think about how rippling, entrancing melodies can abruptly be trounced by the most disruptive and purging of dive-bombing plunges. You’d have to consider ambience and cacophony – one lurking just moments apart from the other. You’d have to think about cohesion and why Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic’s concept of the term differs from most anybody else’s on the planet. And why it all, somehow, sounds right.

There are sonic booms and sonorous sweeps. Airy passages and full-throttle excursions. Ferciousness and tranquility. Percussive workouts that flow out of polyphonic keyboard textures. It’s a soundtrack to films yet unmade. It’s grace and danger, all tossed to the wind and, sometimes, brought back down to earth. Other times, well, whichever way the wind blows.

Journey to the world of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, a musical topography so unpredictable it defies categorization. SONIC GEOLOGY is the CD that explores the rich and varied terrain of the band described as “The World’s Hardest Rocking Chamber Quartet.” An unlikely mix of punk, minimalism, and free-form improvisational music, Birdsongs has gained a national following for its unique and multifarious music. The group’s creative use of sound, not limited to the staples (piano, two synthesizers, and guitar) includes such “instruments” as an abbreviated clarinet, 25-gallon metal waterbarrel, lawn mower and wash board. The multi-layered cacophony is perfectly suited to the expanded sonic range of Compact Disc.

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic was formed in 1980 by Roger Miller and Martin Swope, members of the now-defunct Mission of Burma. Both have since left the band, but SONIC GEOLOGY brings together the best work of the original lineup — drawn from three Ace of Hearts vinyl releases: EP, MAGNETIC FLIP, and BEAT OF THE MESOZOIC. Also included are two previously unreleased tracks: “Pulse Piece” and “The Common Sparrow.”

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