Birds and Buildings: Multipurpose Trap
It’s a happy day in this prog household when a new Dan Britton project is released. Even the cat likes it. Dan Briton has become recognized as one of the most inventive and original composer / musicians in the new generation of prog. Everything he is involved with bears his signature yet maintains a separate identity. Much like Mike Patton, you know it’s him but you can also easily pick out which band you are hearing.
My introduction was with the first Deluge Grander album. Then came the more avant-garde Birds and Buildings with its debut “Bantam to Behemoth.” Another Deluge Grander followed and in the fall of 2013 Birds and Buildings had their next turn with “Multipurpose Trap.”
In describing this, or any other progressive music, comparisons to other artists are bandied about as if by necessity. Granted, finding a baseline for context isn’t easy without those kind of references. I do however grow weary of the usual, “It’s a blend of this with a dollop of that, mashed with A and a bit of B thrown in.” or “If X and Y had a baby…” Do you want to know what Birds and Buildings sounds like? It sounds like Birds and Buildings. Okay, some kind of description is warranted. In the band’s words, “We play a mixture of intense jazz-rock (often bordering on zeuhl), more experimental symphonic music, and occasional avant-garde heaviness.” Got it? If you want more the band has posted some track-by-track explanation on their page. http://emkog.com/BirdsandBuildings.html
What needs to be said is this challenging, sometimes dark stuff, that tries not to take itself too seriously. While the music may not as impenetrable as the influences the band drew from, it isn’t exactly easy listening either. That was true of the debut as well. Keeping within the established B&B framework, “Multipurpose Trap” expands on what worked before and explores new ground. A good example is “Horse-Shaped Cloud” which has a bit of a medieval folk groove to it (that’s right, I used groove in reference to medieval folk). Symphonic does not have as much of a presence in deference to emphasis on the avant and at times downright crazy. Take for example “Secret Crevice.”
The first one was immensely enjoyable and would seem very hard to top. Against all odds they did it. There is a kind of well-planned schizophrenia going on. From the aforementioned folk, to lament, funky grooves and full freak-out, there is an even flow. Even in the height of chaos melody is never completely abandoned. Well, almost never. There are moments where the band gets to the speed and energy of a punk band. Much like Cardiacs except for the fact they actually were punks doing prog. The only complaint I had about the last album has also been corrected. That was the vocals being too low in the mix. Okay this vocal style is meant to be more of a subdued kind of barely intelligible chant but I still want to hear it. If you listen very carefully you may discover the bird theme in the lyrics.
The band needs to be recognized for their skill as well. The talent is as good as gets and every bit of it was poured into this recording. I imagine a lot of broken strings and smoking amps during these sessions. Brett d’Anon shines especially brightly as he approaches Jannick Top territory on the bass. The singers also gel quite nicely with Megan Wheatly standing out as usual.
“Multipurpose Trap” created a conundrum. I have a special place in my heart for Deluge Grander because I worked with Dan in getting them added to Prog Archives and “The Form of the Good” was the catalyst for starting this blog. Facts are facts though and with this release I now prefer Birds and Buildings. It’s a fantastic album by a tremendous group. Expand your horizons and listen to something that isn’t easy for a change. The major labels certainly have no interest in it. They gave up over 20 years ago. If you are tired of the same ol’ same ol’ and think you have the ears for it, don’t pass up this album.
Dan Britton – keyboards & guitars
Brett d’Anon – bass & guitars
Brian Falkowski – sax, flute & clarinet
Chris Fyhr – violin
Malcolm McDuffie – drums & Percussion
Vocals – Megan Weatley, Cliff Phelps, Chris West, Miyuki Furukawa, Brett d’Anon, Dan Britton