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,
released March 19, 2017
All instruments played by Dave Bandana
Olga Kent - violin on “Awash” and “The Dance”
Mick Bennett - guitar on “3 To 1”
Dave - vocals, bass, guitars, drums, drum programming, synths, piano, organ, and mellotron.
Produced, engineered and mastered by Dave Bandana at Villa Clavell studios Lanzarote
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
A review from Thaddeus Wert
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.
“3 To 1” features Mick Bennett on guitar, and it also has a distinct Floydian feel. Birzer’s lyrics are almost sacramental, in the same way Talk Talk’s music is from Spirit of Eden:
From Three, Three Into one
It becomes whole
Three into one
It becomes whole
“Wretched, Part I” is my favorite of the album. I’m a sucker for well-constructed space music, and the first four minutes conjure up a bleak, austere landscape through massed synthesizers. Think of Vangelis’ work on Blade Runner and Antarctica, you’ll have a sense of the power of this track. The lyrics complement the soundscape perfectly:
The scars, the burning fire
Desiccated, irradiated, purgated
Why must he be the one?
“Scenes” is the most straight-forward rock song of the album, and it’s very catchy. The ghosts of late-70s’ discos show up to bop and hop while Bandana sings of the pressure to conform:
All neat and in rows
Rows, rows, perpendicular rows
All the same Conformity
Conformity for the sake of avarice
“Wretched” makes another appearance in “Wretched, Part II”, and it is a nice little ELP-style jam with swirling synths and driving rhythm.
The album closes with the upbeat “Incarnate”. A bouncy piano riff is the foundation for a thoroughly enjoyable tune. However, there are hidden depths to this deceptively catchy ditty, as Bandana’s intertwining vocal harmonies sing of
The flesh becomes the word
The image is the whole
The final three minutes of this song are a perfect way to end the album, as Bandana plays a guitar solo that builds and builds as it ascends. It doesn’t lack a single note nor waste a superfluous one; it reminds me of Vaughan Williams’ small masterpiece, The Lark Ascending.
When all is said and done, Becoming One is a very solid and enjoyable offering from Birzer Bandana. I love the instrumental nods to ’70s prog, while staying firmly in the 21st century. Birzer’s lyrics are dark and dystopian, but throughout there are glimmers of hope, and album ends on an inspiringly uplifting note. I hope this is the first of many projects from Birzer Bandana – the prog world is much richer for their presence.
You can stream Becoming One at the Birzer Bandana BandCamp page. You can even name your own price to purchase a digital download!
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