A View

There may possibly be some readers who still don’t know that, as well as being editor and chief contributor to Progarchy, Dr. Brad Birzer has also written lyrics and created concepts for two progressive rock albums. This is a track from the latest  album Of Course It Must Be. You can explore more of Brad’s work at http://www.birzerbandana.bandcamp.com

Rick’s Quick Takes: Birzer Bandana, Of Course It Must Be

Accessible, but not mainstream.  Simple, though hardly simplistic.  Unfolding methodically but organically, without feeling confined to strict verse/chorus/bridge templates.  Ambient, but by no means aural wallpaper.  And definitely prog — but prog that can’t be pinned down with an easy label.

These dichotomies come to mind listening to Of Course It Must Be, the second album by this pair of Progarchists (including Our Beloved Founder).   It’s a gentle, subtly delightful listen: without ever getting in your face, it builds, minute by minute, from a spacey drone that kicks off “Adrift” to pumping acoustic guitar riffs on “Calm,”  paralleling a lyrical journey from desperation to acceptance.

The nameless protagonist of Brad Birzer’s “lyrical prose” drifts into the picture disoriented, grasping for connection (“Adrift”), vaguely remembering a moment of crisis (“The Void”).  Though there are tantalizing hints, we’re not really sure what’s happened.  And you could argue that nothing further really “happens” as the album continues.  The hero’s vision gradually comes into focus (“A View”), observing the good and the bad of a world turning below  (“There” and “There Again”), accepting “the beautiful and hideous … messed up, glorious” (“Yes”).  Whatever fate awaits him, he’s convinced that “humanity will continue/A beautiful mess/Made complete by love.”  And as “Calm” winds down, the narrator’s meditations simply fade out … like a still, small voice.  Can you hear me, Major Tom?

Another cool thing: you could conceivably follow this storyline even if the lyrics weren’t sung.  Dave Bandana’s music is understated, yet cinematic throughout.  Using a restrained, gradually brightening palette of tone colors, he deftly unfolds Birzer’s scenario with a precise balance of riffs, grooves and tunes, while leaving plenty of space for the music to breathe.  His singing is always committed and solid, and his work on guitar, keys and drums is consistently tasty (with occasional, appreciated echoes of Rick Wright in the synth solos).  Guests Kenny Miller on acoustic guitar and Olga Kent on violin light up the tracks they play on with gracious, melodic work.   There’s a cumulatively powerful growth to the music as a whole; on the last three tracks, the busier, somewhat poppier soundscapes are somehow the perfect complement to the hero’s breakthrough.  Musically and lyrically there’s contentment and quiet joy, even while looking darkness in the face.

Of Course It Must Be — what??  Something like you’ve never heard before?  Probably not.  A genre-defining breakthrough?  Not really.  A well-crafted, classy, worthwhile album that deserves an hour out of your life to hear it, as well as some of your hard-earned cash?  Yep, that’s the ticket.

You can listen to (and buy) Of Course It Must Be at Birzer Bandana’s Bandcamp page, along with their 2017 album, Becoming One.

— Rick Krueger

Birzer Bandana’s First Album Reviewed

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Mark Naida of Hillsdale College has written a beautiful review of Birzer Bandana’s first album, BECOMING ONE.  Thank you,  Mark!

Theology, intellectual rock, and the liberal arts — these are three main elements of the debut album by Birzer Bandana, a collaboration between progressive rock musician Dave Smith and Hillsdale College Professor of History Bradley Birzer.

Birzer provided the concept and lyrics, and Smith wrote the music for the seven-song progressive rock album “Becoming One,” which was released on Spotify, Bandcamp, and iTunes March 18.

Progressive rock seeks to combine the formal elements of classical music while also embracing the eclectic side of rock and roll music, according to music critic Lucas Biela of progarchives.com.

“Rock bands like the Rolling Stones wanted to show pure emotion in their music. Prog is a more intellectual genre that shares ideas,” Birzer said.

To read the full review, please go here: http://hillsdalecollegian.com/2017/04/birzer-bandana-ties-together-science-fiction-apocalyptic-poetry-british-prog-rock/

Birzer Bandana: Becoming One

There’s a new band on the prog block: Birzer Bandana, which is Progarchy’s own Brad Birzer (lyrics) and Salander’s Dave Bandana (music and performance). According to Brad’s liner notes, his lyrics were jumpstarted by the science fiction classic A Canticle For Leibowitz, and the opening track, “Awash”, definitely conjures up images of a post-nuclear wasteland.

Awash in light, bathed and comforted
Head… deadly, deadly, deadly heat
Burns the skin and the retinas
Irradiated skies baptize the earth.

Bandana’s music is appropriately somber and evocative of someone trudging through desert sands. Olga Kent’s beautiful violin lends an exotic air.

Things pick up a bit in the second song, “Dance”. I love Bandana’s double-tracked vocals here, and the combination of acoustic guitar,  hand percussion (tabla?), Kent’s bewitching violin, and some classic-era prog organ make for a terrific track. Imagine late-period Beatles collaborating with Pink Floyd, and you get an idea of how this one sounds.

Continue reading “Birzer Bandana: Becoming One”

Birzer Bandana–New Prog

I’m very happy to announce the release of a new band and a new album: BECOMING ONE by Birzer Bandana.  Yes, for better or worse, I’m the Birzer in Birzer Bandana.  The Bandana is Dave Bandana of Salander.

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When Dave asked me to write lyrics for a forthcoming album, I was beyond thrilled.  Having been a prog rock fan since my earliest memories of childhood, I’ve always wanted to be an intimate part of the act of creation.  Sadly, though I have wide-ranging as well as specific tastes in music, I know next to nothing about composition or performance.  I do, however, have lots of ideas and words floating around that odd organ known as the human brain.  The first idea that came into my mind came from one of my favorite novels, Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.  This provided the opening scene, but everything that followed came from my own love of vast, deserted, and broken landscapes and Mark Hollis-esque minimalistic and imagist lyrics.  “Becoming One,” then, is a bit post-apocalyptic sci-fi, a bit psychological and theological, and a whole lot of cathartic.  Dave masterfully took these poor words and made them something epic.  Proggy and epic.  But, then again, all prog is epic and all epic is prog.  We hope you enjoy our first collaboration—Brad (and Dave), March 18, 2017.

All instruments played by Dave Bandana—except Olga Kent violin on “Awash” and “The Dance” and Mick Bennett who played guitar on “3 To 1.”  Dave on vocals, bass, guitars, drums, drum programming, synths, piano, organ, and mellotron.

Produced, engineered and mastered by Dave Bandana at Villa Clavell studios.

Written by Dave Bandana (music) and Brad Birzer (concept and lyrics); Birzer Bandana, ©2017.

Drawing by Lyn Phillips; colouring and graphics by Kim Varner-Fulmer.

https://birzerbandana.bandcamp.com