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Birds and Buildings, USA


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Birds and Buildings - Bantam to Behemoth. 2008 Emkog
Birds and Buildings - Multipurpose Trap. 2013 Emkog

Birds and Buildings is one of a handful of bands Dan Britton is involved with (others including Deluge Grander, Cerebus Effect, and All Over Everywhere). On top of his considerable music composition acumen, Britton is also a student of the progressive rock genre as a whole. He's not only aware of the surface groups, but also of the labyrinthine underground - many of the same obscure bands I feature across my three blogs. This deep research shows up in all his recordings, and he seems careful to not fall into the cliche traps he hears in others bands - especially modern ones who have the luxury of history on their side. Not only are music charts well studied, but so is the instrumentation, with a careful mix of analog and modern gear applied. Birds and Buildings would appear to be Britton's vehicle geared towards the more academic approach to rock, often referred to as the Avant Prog genre. Britton states Birds and Buidlings charter is: "We play a mixture of intense jazz-rock (often bordering on zeuhl), more experimental symphonic music, and occasional avant-garde heaviness." On both recordings to date, "Bantam to Behemoth" and "Multipurpose Trap", Birds and Buildings have delivered very busy affairs. Nothing sits still for long, and multiple shifts occur across harmonic, dynamic, and metric lines. If I stopped writing here, and that's all there was, I would admire Birds and Buildings but not necessarily enjoy it. But where Britton gets it right is he never loses sight of the song - melody is as important as the structure. As well, free improvisations where various instrumentalists lose total control of what they're doing are forbidden in Birds and Buildings' world. The very best of the Avant Prog bands understand these traits. The jagged nature of the genre can be too cold and clinical for repeated enjoyment, while long stretches of atonal noise are only for those who vacuum the room while listening. As well, I appreciate that Birds and Buildings do not resort to the all-too-predictable cartoon music which is supposed to somehow overcompensate for the seriousness. Also worth mentioning is none of this could happen without the band itself - all very accomplished players who put in a very spirited performance. Kudos to all! So what you have is a band that is incredibly dense like Thinking Plague or 5uu's, but considerably more accessible. I find that I can listen to these albums over and over, which is rare for an Avant Prog album to be honest (for me that is). About the closest comparison would be a band like Underground Railroad - different conclusion, but the same premise. And Underground Railroad features another student of the progressive rock genre, so perhaps it's to be expected.  I suppose if I were to level a criticism, and not that I have to, it would be nice to see Birds and Buildings lock into a groove every once in awhile. This allows the compositions to add some space and breathe a bit, and well... rock dammit. Caravan's 'Nine Feet Underground' is perhaps the perfect blueprint for what I mean here. Complexity, melody, and good old fashioned "in the groove" jamming. As if anticipating such an attack, it is interesting to note that "Multipurpose Trap" adds in a funk/disco component towards the end - something that the late 70s French bands were so adept at. I thought that was a stroke of genius, completely throwing the academic disposition on its head.

Excellent. Just excellent. Both albums come highly recommended.

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Kenso - s/t. 1980 Pam (LP); 1995 Arcangelo (CD)
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