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Published: 2003/11/28
by Glenn Alexander

The Iridium Controversy – Birdsongs of the Mesozoic

Cuneiform Records 179

The Iridium Controversy is a brilliantly executed album that attempts

to achieve harmony through dissonance and carefully constructed mood. It is

flush with music of varying dispositions, but succeeds in the construction

of a unified atmosphere through an abundance of deft musicianship and bold

compositional structure.

As an instrumental album, it conveys a very deliberate message of chaos and

beauty, analogous to the world around us. As a jazz album, it is an

enticing foray into surrealism and at no point do the songs seem to exhaust

the musicians, but that the songs, with their complex arrangements, propel

the players into an invigorating, hypnotic, frenzied world no one but they

inhabit. On "The Iridium" (parts 1 and 2), the music is driven by a

marching, rolling drumbeat, with horns, piano, and an iridescent flute

leading the path down a mysterious, oscillating road flanked by crunchy

guitar, synthesizers and boisterous, yet carefully placed percussion.

There is an operatic feel to much of this album, and in reality, much of the

album feels like a modern piece of painfully orchestrated classical music,

but it is much more than that. It is post-bop bordered by Latin, rock

infused with techno, and odd-time signature beats infused with spiraling

crescendos of horn solos backed up by a crunchy, yet glamorous 1980s

electric guitar sound. It is a virtual catalogue of sound which demands

scrupulous attention and is certainly not susceptible to categorization.

This album could, in a sense, be the soundtrack to its own movie. As the

album progresses, there is a distinct feeling that you are traveling through

a singular and omnipresent story that unfolds through the brilliant

storytelling of the musicians. In fact, one musician (Michael Bierylo) is

credited for "sound design" as well as "programming," which compels one to

think about the deliberate nature of this very odd, yet captivating music.

This album is not for people compelled to listen to music with direct

rewards or a clearly-stated language or mission. It is about as abstract as

music gets these days, but does not possess the disarray and turmoil present

in free-jazz. It is compelling because it is so scrupulous and

other-worldly, yet it manages to project a sense of real freedom, which is

perhaps not as present in the music itself, but, as we might learn through

listening to it, present in the endless avenues of one's own mind.

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