Birds and Buildings: Bantam to Behemoth
Want some mellotron in your Jazz Rock / Fusion? How about some Zeuhl style bass? While we’re at it, let’s add some David Jackson-esque sax. Throw in some incredible drumming, and even a little vibraphone, and you have the makings of the opening track on “Bantam to Behemoth.” “Birds Flying Into Buildings” sets the tone for the musical extravaganza that is Birds and Buildings.
It is pretty obvious that Dan Britton and company had been pulling out their Zeuhl albums before composing this one. However, if you are familiar with Dan Britton’s other projects, you can expect there is more to it. That assumption would be totally correct. Along with the Jazz, and Zeuhl aspects, there is also an infusion of a symphonic sensibility on this album. It is stronger in some tracks than others, but it is never completely absent.
The opener is almost completely in an avant Jazz / Zeuhl realm. “Terra Fire” is less in your face, but begins in much the same territory. Gradually, it becomes a bit more symphonic. Here you start to hear things reminiscent of Deluge Grander.
“Tunguska” goes further into Symphonic areas, but it is still very Jazz. It is also a bit more mysterious, and quirky. There are parts in this track that again remind me of Van Der Graaf Generator. Right when you think that’s what it is about, there is a very cool electric piano solo. Then the mellotron kicks in again. This is what I love about Dan Britton projects. There are always lots of surprises.
The gears are completely shifted on “Caution Congregates and Forms a Storm.” This is completely symphonic. The mood is also considerably lightened. There is a fine line being walked here. The slightest push, and this might not seem like it belongs on the album. Not to worry, the band pulls it off beautifully. Earlier themes and moods are reintroduced, and give it perfect cohesion. It even delves back into the earlier avant style, without losing the symphonic epic quality. It ends with an absolutely beautifully played piano, accompanied by acoustic guitar.
“Chronicle of the Invisible River of Stone” solidifies the symphonic portion of Bantam to Behemoth. This comes right out of the classic Symphonic playbook. The addition of Megan Wheatley’s vocals was a stroke of genius. Her lilting voice is the perfect accompaniment for the music. This track reminds me of Anthony Philips for some reason. Although, I would be hard pressed to explain exactly why. While this track is completely different from where the album started, the natural progression of the tracks blends it right in.
Still in Symph land, “Yucatan 65: The Agitation of the Mass” offers a very cool instrumental jam. It starts out as an easy acoustic guitar, and flute, flamenco piece. More is added, and it becomes a completely symphonic jam. Towards the end, the Latin sound pretty much disappears, but that’s just how it flows.
“Chakra Kahn” returns to the original avant Jazz / Zeuhl styles, and it stays that way through “Battalion.” Then “Sunken City, Sunny Day closes softly with a bit more avant tinged Symphonic.
I was impressed with this album from the first spin. Dan Britton seems to improve with each release. That’s a tall order too, because Cerebus Effect was darn good, and Deluge Grander was excellent. I never saw much room for improvement of the musicianship from the other bands, but this time it is even better. This is a Jazz, Avant, Zeuhlish, Symphonic, tour de force. Exciting is really the best word to describe it. You are really missing out if you don’t get it. Something will really have to impress me to beat this for best album of 2008.
Oh, and the artwork is really cool too.
Dan Britton – keyboards, guitars, vocals
Malcom McDuffie – drums
Brian Falkowski – saxophones, flute, clarinet
Brett d’Anon – bass, guitars
Megan Wheatley – vocals on”Chronicle of the Invisible River of Stone”