Binary System

Invention Box

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Binary System is the duo of former Mission of Burma and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic member Roger Miller (piano, various other instruments) and Larry Dersch (drums, percussion), who are joined here by assorted guests on about half of the tracks. As on their previous albums, this music is a heavily rhythmic blend of rock and 20th century classical sensibilities. Miller's ambiguous, often dense piano harmonies call to mind Béla Bartók and even Cecil Taylor, and in combination with Dersch's rock-based drumming, the overall results can bring to mind Burnt Weenie Sandwich-era Frank Zappa (probably unintentionally, and minus the prominent sense of humor). The opener, a questionable reworking of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" and the only track with vocals, is kind of a red herring in this context, as the next seven tracks seem to function as a suite, building tension and momentum as they go and climaxing with the almost orchestral chamber rock of "Trimorphic Hybrid" (which adds distorted guitar, cornet, and upright bass to the piano/drum foundation). In a few other spots, Miller contributes some percussive prepared piano work that adds a sort of urban-tribal feel. The closing track, a quiet mélange of wind sounds and soft percussion clatter entitled "Texas," is a curious way to end the album -- it would not have hurt to leave this one and the opener off, since the real meat is in the middle, with the piano-based pieces. The drumming may be a little stiff from a real rock standpoint, but overall this is an interesting effort.

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