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Dawn of the Cycads

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Album Review

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic started out as a side collaboration between two gods of the Boston art-punk scene: Mission of Burma's guitarist Roger Miller (who wanted an outlet for his keyboard compositions) and Erik Lindgren, who had played keyboards for an early version of Burma called Moving Parts. Adding third keyboardist Rick Scott and fellow Burma member Martin Swope on guitar, the quartet recorded an eponymous EP, a full-length album (Magnetic Flip), and then another EP (Beat of the Mesozoic), all on the local Ace of Hearts label. In 1988 Miller left, bringing the band's initial era to a close, but the group continues with original members Scott and Lindgren, as well as saxophonist Ken Field and guitarist Michael Bierylo. Dawn of the Cycads is a two-disc compilation that brings together the band's first three releases along with about 45 minutes of previously unreleased live and studio material from the same period. Those who are encountering the early recordings for the first time are in for a treat: the band's rock/classical fusion is in full effect on tracks like "Ptoccata" and the minimalism tribute "Terry Riley's House," while their more whimsical side is given expression in a rollicking rendition of the theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Not everything about the band's sound has aged well: that drum machine sounded cheap in 1983 and sounds positively cheesy today. But the Birdsongs' unique blend of compositional rigor, rockish energy, and cheerful complexity is still as fresh and enjoyable as it ever was. It would be too easy to say that this set is like an archaeological find from a rock & roll culture of the distant past — it's more like an anthropological study of a culture that is both more advanced and more fun-loving than our own.


Formed: 1980 in Boston, MA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in 1980, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic play a unique mix of rock, punk, classical, minimalism, and free-form music, with occasional forays into even more unexpected directions, including spoken word performance and African-American spirituals. The group's diverse instrumentation has included piano, synthesizers, guitar, saxophones, flutes, and electronic and acoustic percussion. Birdsongs began as a side project by Roger Miller and Martin Swope, who were members of the Boston band Mission of Burma....
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Dawn of the Cycads, Birdsong of the Mesozoic
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