Brad Birzer and Dave Bandana Talk The Bardic Depths… With Each Other

The wonderful Brad Birzer just interviewed his bandmate Dave Bandana to discuss Dave’s background and their new album, The Bardic Depths. The interview doubles as their first time talking to each other “face-to-face” via video chat. This is their third collaboration, and they’ve only interacted by email before this. What an amazing era in which we live… minus the plague of course.

The Bardic Depths is a brilliant album – one you need to listen to. Check out my review and Rick Krueger’s review.

The Bardic Depths – A Prescient Album

The Bardic DepthsThe Bardic Depths, The Bardic Depths, 2020 (Gravity Dream)

Tracks: The Trenches (8:36), Biting Coals (7:50), Depths of Time (12:35), Depths of Imagination (5:01), Depths of Soul (6:40), The End (7:38), Legacies (9:28)

Longtime readers of Progarchy are well aware that just about everything written by Dr. Bradley J. Birzer is brilliant. The previous two album collaborations between Brad and Dave Bandana, 2017’s Becoming One and 2018’s Of Course It Must Be, were both great. I noticed strong strides forward in the second album, and I hear a huge leap forward in this third collaboration in the form of a more formal band called The Bardic Depths.

Birzer still handles the lyrical output and Bandana acts as the musical director, but Dave Bandana and Brad Birzerthe cast of characters has broadened greatly. Cosmograf maestro Robin Armstrong realized the brilliance in the demos and decided to both mix the album and make it the first release on his new record label, Gravity Dream. Along the way Bandana began asking people here and there to contribute to the album, and before he knew it a more refined sound had emerged. The Big Big Train facebook group became a means of connection for Bandana and the extraordinary Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tales, Red Bazar, Camel). Jones contributed a couple soulful and beautiful saxophone solos. Gareth Cole and Robin Armstrong contribute some blistering guitar solos, and a host of other talented people contribute their musicianship and vocal talents (including spoken word). Sir Brad himself makes multiple appearances with the spoken word. Having had the fortune of taking one of his courses when I was in college, I can tell you he was blessed with a fantastic speaking voice, second to only Dr. Tom Conner in the Hillsdale College History Department.


Continue reading “The Bardic Depths – A Prescient Album”

Sounding the Bardic Depths

Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’ … It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born.

— C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

The Bardic Depths is a rare creation; the method of its making embodies what it portrays.  It’s a distinctive take on the concept album, sparked from ongoing collaboration by two devoted lovers of progressive rock, with stellar contributions from some of the music’s current leading lights.   (Oh, and fleeting spoken-word cameos from others, including yours truly — so yeah, objectivity is out the window here.)

Lyricist Brad Birzer and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dave Bandana have been self-releasing enjoyable albums for a few years now,  launching impressionist volleys of lyrical prose (usually in a dystopian sci-fi framework) via arching, chantlike melodies, poised atop appealingly thick ambient pads and amiably chugging pop grooves.  When Birzer pitched the life, times and friendship of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as an album concept, Bandana loved it — but as the music took shape, he realized that contributors who could kick things up a level were needed for the album to take wing.

Enter the Passengers — that astonishingly amiable Facebook group of fans brought together by their love of Big Big Train.  Having seen BBT live (and made numerous musical friends in the process), Bandana modestly reached out for help.  And, as the video below reveals, one thing led to another:

Continue reading “Sounding the Bardic Depths”

Robin Armstrong’s New Label Signs New Duo The Bardic Depths – Featuring Some Familiar Names

Progarchy wishes a huge congratulations to its former editor and co-founder Brad Birzer and Progarchist Dave Bandana who have formed a new band, The Bardic Depths, and become the first signing to Robin Armstrong’s (Cosmograf) new label Gravity Dream. Brad and Dave have made two albums under the name Birzer Bandana, with Birzer handling lyrics and Bandana handling most of the instrumentation and vocals. This new album, entitled The Bardic Depths, will feature a similar setup but with additional players and singers. Lyrics will focus on the literary friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Less (two of my favorite authors!). It promises to be a great album.

The following fine people have contributed to the album:

Brad Birzer – Lyrics and concept, spoken word
Kevin McCormick – Guitars
Paolo Limoli – Keyboards, Piano
Tim Gerht – Drums
Gareth Cole – Guitars
Peter Jones – Saxophone, vocals,spoken word
John William Francis – Marimba, spoken word
Glenn Codere – Backing Vocals
Mike Warren- Cello
Robin Armstrong – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Dave Bandana – Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars, Bass, Flute, Harmonica,
With –
Richard Krueger, Henri Strik, Scotty Scott, Andreas Mowinckel, Tony Bridgeman,
Martin Holmes, Phil Ball – Spoken Word

Congratulations again to both Brad and Dave!

 

https://www.loudersound.com/news/cosmograf-mans-new-label-announce-first-signing-the-bardic-depths

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