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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic

Petrophonics

Review by G. W. Hill

If you are a fan of off kilter, instrumental prog with jazzy overtones; do yourself a favor and check out this band. The sound is really all their own, although comparisons to early King Crimson are justified. This CD, their sixth, is a fine representation of this awesome band, and a great starting point for the beginning listener and a nice addition to the collection of the long time fan.   The lineup on this CD is Michael Bierylo, Ken Field, Erik Lindgren and Rick Scott.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Petrophonics
A feeling of potential energy that is about to break loose begins this cut. As it does break loose, the texture is that of a soundtrack to a Peter Gunn/James Bond type of story with a great jazzy prog riff that exudes all those action adventure type elements. The cut drops down to a slower, smoother jazz type of texture for a short time, then builds right back up. After a time, a repetitious sort of mode fades down and brings the cut into a sedate, almost orchestral reworking of the central themes. This carries on for a short time until the earlier format takes the track again..
Ptoccata II
Sedate keys start this cut, and as the other instruments join, it is in slow, quiet modes. Then, as if a dam breaks, the tempo of the cut jumps rather drastically while the volume of the music raises only slightly. The cut plays in quicker, jazzy tones for a time, then drops back down. It then runs in an atmospheric style for a brief time before jumping back to the earlier segment. The song moves along these lines for a time, then dissolves down into chaos. It is a dreamy, but disorienting world that takes this movement. The earlier, faster modes, gain control again after a time, and as the cut progresses, it drops to rather tribal rhythms that form the basis of the fade down.
One Hundred Cycles
Fast paced, almost Latin percussion textures begin this one. As the other instruments join, it is in a slow build up, sort of topping the mix. However, as the bass joins in the texture really changes into a strong prog jam. This one has some awesome musical performances on the part of everyone as it weaves its way around a series of great melody lines.
Never Green
Chaotic, dissonant piano tones start this one out. After a time, they seem to find their way in to more melodic patterns, but again the cut moves into chaos. It begins to acquire another nice melodic direction after a time, just to have it also dissolve into chaos. This is the patter of the whole piece - a chaotic progression gives way to more melodic, then a different pattern of chaos takes it, following by a new melodic musical direction.
Study of Unintended Consequences
Weird chaotic sounds begin this one, and the tension and dissonance build as the volume does, too. The cut continues in a chaotic riotous mode. This is sheer, dynamic chaos in a dissonant manner. Melody lines emerge for short times, then shift back out to non-linear modes.
Birdhead
Fast paced, quirky prog tones begin this one, and as the song proper starts, those are built on in a great progressive rock fashion with jazz overtones. This one is quite melodic and a great counter point to the previous number. A percussion interlude moves the piece into a jazzier segment. Some of the guitar work on this one leans toward Howeish texture. Percussion ends the number.
Allswell That Endswell in Roswell
With one of the coolest song titles I have heard in a long time, guitar melody lines begin this one, and it slowly builds from there in a great, relaxing jazz-influenced prog style. After a brief stop, the cut begins again in a rather mysterious style. After a while of this, a more energetic texture begins to take over building in similar styles, but with a greater sense of urgency. The cut dissolves into Crimsonesque jazzy chaos as it ends.
Music Inspired by 1001 Real Apes
Time Marches on Theme
Dissonant piano begins this one, and the song starts building on this mode, getting quite dramatic at times. It is a sedate and slow moving piece with a lot of artistic drama.
Dinosaur's Theme
A great, harder rocking, fast paced prog mode makes up this cut. One of the main riffs to this one is a killer line that calls to mind some of the music from the Planet of The Apes film and Tony Levin's styles. After a time, this hard-edged jam gives way to a slow, mellower interlude. It drops back even further, then begins building up from there. The beginning segments of the cut return to end the piece in fine fashion.
Gravity Theme
A melodic, ballad oriented mode makes up the central theme of this cut, and the band expand and create within this framework in a great free flowing jam. This one feels a bit playful at times. Some talking set in the background appears toward the middle of the piece. Great guitar based textures take over for a time. Then piano begins dancing around this. This mode ends the number as it flows straight into the next track.
Quincy Sore Throat Theme
Bouncy piano, continuing themes from the previous cut, jump straight out from that one to form the central theme of this piece. Rather jazzy, quirky lines make up the main theme here, bouncing to and fro with a great arrangement that becomes somewhat orchestral at times. This one ends with just a piano pounding a single note over and over.
The Insidious Revenge of Ultima Thule
Part One
A dramatic, harder edged prog mode makes up the central theme for this one, a brief, killer jazzy prog jam. Sound effects end the piece.
Part Two
Rather pretty and evocative piano starts this segment, quickly wandering around into the territory of strangeness, but still maintaining a certain inherent beauty. It gets quite mysterious and atmospheric as it continues.
Part Three
Coming out of the lull after part two, jazzy piano begins this one and continues in that style briefly with accompaniment. As the cut evolves, weird textures become the rule with sections of melodic returning themes stringing it together. The later moments of the piece are more melodic and quite powerful at times. It again gets quite strange at the end.
 
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