Birdsongs of the Mesozoic

The Fossil Record, 1980-1987

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The phoenix that rose from the ashes of Mission of Burma looked disconcertingly like...well, a pterodactyl. By the time Birdsongs of the Mesozoic's first EP was released, in 1983, Mission of Burma (of which Birdsongs keyboardist Roger Miller and guitarist Martin Swope were charter members, though on different instruments) had dissolved, and this band subsequently became a full-time gig. The Fossil Record collects rare and unreleased studio recordings from a period beginning with the band's earliest days and ending with Miller's departure in 1988. The album opens with a 1980 version of "Sound Valentine" (which would be the lead track on the band's debut EP three years later) and bops between spiky, modal minimalist pieces ("Pulse Piece"), slabs of zen aggression ("Chen/The Arousing"), prehistoric tarantellas ("Lqabblil Insanya"), and unexpected cover versions (Brian Eno's "Sombre Reptiles"). Very few bands have ever managed to straddle the worlds of modern classical music and rock as successfully as this one did. This compilation makes a good introduction to its art, though the eponymous EP and Magnetic Flip LP (most of the contents of which were released as Sonic Geology on Rykodisc) are also both highly recommended.

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