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14 December 2009

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - 'EP' (Ace of Hearts)

I love Great Pop Things, the comic strip done by the dude from the Mekons, and if he ever did one for Birdsongs of the Mesozoic the subtitle would be "They tried to change the world through dinosaur masks and embracing chamber music!". Of course it's the Mission of Burma connection that lodged these records in my consciousness, but I'm glad for it. They came to me at a time when I was looking for something smarter to go with my meat and potatoes rock/punk diet. Instrumental rock music with synths, lots of tape manipulations courtest of Martin Swope, and synths/keyboards to boot - what could go wrong? Now I hear this as fitting into that whole New York school of art music, like Elliot Sharp and Glenn Branca, though I don't really know why since it's a lot more rock than I remember it being. Not stadium-filling, Aerosmith-style rock, but rather the Henry Cow/Crimson variant. Though they're not afraid to use canned/synth drums, which provide a weird plastic centre over which 'Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous' can ebb and flow. I also like how 'Transformation of Oz' has this manic piano breakdown where Roger Miller is bashing about on some tom-toms and then it cuts out into a more elliptical, neo-classical piano solo - and then the riff comes back in. Martin Swope actually plays electric guitar here, so all of the Burmaisms have been inverted. I used to spin the full-length quite a bit but this EP is less known to me. A shame too, cause 'Drift' is a truly lovely seaside raft in turbulence. This EP is rather dominated by Roger Miller's piano, which sounds great though slightly Windham Hill at times. When complemented by Karen Kaderavek's cello on 'The Orange Ocean', I can't help but think of this music as a reaction to punk's naievete. Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, despite their dinosaur schtick, are the first few steps towards the indie-classical hybrid that got big about fifteen years later - artists like Louisville's Rachel's and maybe even you could throw Godspeed You Black Emperor into that category. These five songs pass by relatively quickly, but there's a full-length just around the corner.

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