Birds And Buildings - Bantam To Behemoth

Year of Release: 2008
Label: Emkog
Catalog Number: Emkog 002
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:27:00

Every once in a while an album comes along that really separates the men from the boys. A work with so much sheer musical intensity that it either leaves the listener slack jawed in amazement or running for the nearest exit. Dan Britton's latest musical collaboration, Birds And Buildings, has released their debut Bantam To Behemoth, a disc that contains some of the most relentlessly powerful, most thoroughly developed, and most fascinating prog music to be heard today. Quite frankly, it may all be just a bit too much for some of the faint-hearted prog listeners, but if you enjoy being overwhelmed with both beauty and power when you listen to your music then Birds And Buildings is the band you've been waiting for.

This is a mostly instrumental explosion of sound and ideas that evokes the style and spirit of Zappa, Gentle Giant, Yes, Echolyn, Land Of Chocolate, Happy The Man, Soft Machine and Hatfield And The North (I reference track 6, "Yucatan 65: The Agitation Of The Mass" in particular. Britton's playing sounds just like Dave Stewart), to say nothing of the jazz influences that flavor the sax and flute playing of band member Brian Falkowski. Britton, the keyboardist, guitarist and occasional vocalist, as well as this project's composer, instructs listeners to take the nine track disc as three song cycles of three songs each. Even digested three tracks at a time; this is still a full plate of very complex music, music that is distinguished by the presence of exciting themes that are explored and exploited with consummate skill and music that is constantly reinvigorated with changes of time and tempo.

Much of the disc's music allows Britton to play his keys in highly syncopated patterns, creating wonderful melodic polyrhythms that are set against the sometimes frantic but always quite impressive drumming of Malcolm McDuffie. Bret d'Anon's bass work is a joy to hear as well. The man has skill, taste and wonderful phrasing. Who could ask for anything more? The previously mentioned Brian Falkowski shines on sax, flute and clarinet and the great be-bop licks he blows open up new doors of possibility for Britton's songwriting and the bands bold arrangements. I really can't say enough about the music Britton has created for this disc. It stands head and shoulders above the usual fare one is dealt with most of the current crop of prog bands and it definitely surpasses the previous work of Britton himself with his other band, Deluge Grander. Bantam To Behemoth sports two tracks over ten minutes and three more at over nine minutes and every moment of these and the discs shorter tracks are alive with continuous melodic development and one finely executed motif after another. Devilishly clever lines end in breathtaking cadenzas, memorable themes show up in altered form in one song and the next and Britton also produces a sense of epic continuity by carrying one or two melodies throughout the entire disc.

I have one and one only problem with this disc, which despite a clearly low budget in recording and packaging, sounds very good to me audio-wise, and that is the vocals. I think I actually have more faith in Britton (the bands "occasional" vocalist) than he has himself and that, I think, is the problem. All of his admittedly quirky vocals are heavily modulated and processed and then buried in the mix, most likely by Britton himself. His singing, and that of guest vocalist Megan Wheatley (who turns in a very nice performance on "Chronicle Of The Invisible River Of Stone"), sounds good to me and I would not mind being able to hear it a bit more clearly and prominently in the final mix.

Tracks 1 through 3 and 7 through 9 might be best described as the angry tracks, full of fast paced chord changes and tight unison licks between bass and sax or keys and guitar. Things often take a deeper course, however, with good use made of Britton's string synths or with the voice of acoustic piano contrasting his frequent use of vibes in some of the main themes of the first and last triumvirate of songs.

Tracks 4 through 6 fill the center of this journey with a wonderful feast of symphonic delights. This cycle of works is approximately 30 minutes in length and it is the shortest 30 minutes I have spent in a long time. The three pieces flow effortlessly from one beautiful motif to the next, every note falling perfectly from your speakers and lodging themselves firmly within your imagination. These three tracks are a veritable how-to guide to producing gorgeous symphonic prog.

If there is any justice in this world then this release from Birds And Buildings will become a future classic of 21st century progressive rock. Listening to this disc has become an addictive pleasure for me and this is one addiction I have no desire to end. Bantam To Behemoth is an absolutely wonderful release and one that I have to give my highest recommendation to.

Birds Flying Into Buildings (9:13) / Terra Fire (3:36) / Tunguska (6:33) / Caution Congregates And Forms A Storm (10:53) / Chronicle Of The Invisable River Of Stone (9:19) / Yucatan 65: The Agitation Of The Mass (10:35) / Chakra Khan (5:59) / Battalion (9:55) / Sunken City, Sunny Day (3:19)

Dan Britton - keyboards, guitars, vocals
Malcolm McDuffie - drums
Brian Falkowski - saxophones, flute, clarinet
Brett d'Anon - bass, guitars
Megan Wheatley - vocals (5)

Bantam To Behemoth (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 20th 2008
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 1504
Language: english


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