There’s something transcendent about the album Born, the debut long player by California’s prog/psych outfit Birth. Southern California has been ground zero for a new wave of prog and psych bands in the last decade and a half, with heavyweights like Astra, Psicomagia, Monarch, Sacri Monti, and Earthless lighting the way to some kind of new world enlightenment via chugging rhythms, otherworldly keys, and jazz-tinged drumming.
While Birth may be releasing their debut album, these cats weren’t just “born” yesterday. Made up of Conor Riley(vocals, synthesizer, electric piano, organ, acoustic guitar), Brian Ellis(guitar, electric piano, percussion), Trevor Mast(bass), and Paul Marrone on drums(Marrone recorded on the album but has been replaced by Thomas DiBenedetto of Sacri Monte, Joy and Monarch.)
Everyone here were part of some of the biggest Cali psych bands to emerge from the budding southern Cali psych music scene. Born is a culmination of their psych/prog powers; songs built on ethereal dreamscapes, muscular riffs, jazz-inflected rhythms, and enough hazy psychedelia to light up your black light posters.
Six songs powered on flights of fancy and intricate time changes are what’s going on with Born. Album opener and title track “Born” is driven by Hammond organ and muscular drumming, bringing to mind ELP and early King Crimson, but with the sweet smell of the Pacific Ocean filling your lungs. Birth leans in heavy with the KC vibes, but also working in touches of Kansas with Mellotron dreaminess filling in for actual violins. It’s a wild ride, man. “Descending Us” is a gorgeous track filled with visions of dystopian horizons and unkown futures. Conor Riley’s voice lands perfectly in Greg Lake territory, with the song going full on Deep Purple In Rock as the amps heat up and the organ goes nuclear.
An absolute highlight here is the excellent and nearly 10-minute epic “For Yesterday”. You can imagine reaching some mountainous peak and looking out over the universe itself. A song that ebbs and flows from acoustic guitar strumming, Moog flights of fancy, and chugging prog riffage that feels melancholy, triumphant, and heady all at the same time. Likewise, the instrumental “Cosmic Tears” locks into analog bliss with a synth-heavy groover that almost screams out beanbag chair, Koss headphones, and Pioneer tower speakers in your parents basement. A slight haze of something dank in the air. I’m getting King Crimson Red feels and I like it. I like it a lot.
Album closer “Long Way Down” gives us one final shot of prog vitamin KC. I do hear a lot of King Crimson on this excellent album, and especially in this epic final track. But don’t take that as Birth just posturing their prog rock heroes. That’s not the case. The DNA of prog runs through Birth’s veins, but they’ve concocted their own psychedelic trip, with even touches of metal, jazz fusion, and space rock. It’s the kind of heady trip only Birth could cook up.
Birth’s Born is the kind of album you continually keep revisiting until it’s become a part of you. Heady movements, mind-altering melodies, and sensory deprivation deep dives that you’ll never tire of. Born is the prog super group album you’ve been waiting for.