JUDGING FROM their name, it seems fair to say that the four Bostonians who make up Birdsongs of the Mesozoic are real smarties. For one thing, they know enough paleontology to be aware that many scientists now believe that dinosaurs, those great denizens of the Mesozoic Age, are the ancestors of birds, thus making their band name a delicious joke. At the same time, they're warped enough to pack their first album, "Magnetic Flip," with an array of dinosaur jokes ranging from the drolly titled "Ptoccata" to a lively abridgement of Stravinski's "Rites of Spring," music that is known to millions by way of the dinosaur scene in "Fantasia."
Jokes aside, though, there is no dinosaur music on "Magnetic Flip." Instead, the material here is about as up-to-date as instrumental rock gets, from the swirling homage of "Terry Riley's House" to the Reichian pulse of "Ptoccata."
To the average rock and roller, the heavy overlay of contemporary classical techniques might seem a bit oppressive; after all, there's not much back beat in the blank throb of "The Fundamental" or "Chen/The Arousing," even if both are laced with the brittle whine of feedback guitar. But for those who prefer the stark soundscapes of Polyrock, Brian Eno or even the early Velvet Underground, the musical challenges posed by Birdsongs of the Mesozoic make for absorbing listening.
Besides, who can resist an album that includes a version of the "Theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle"?
BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC -- "Magnetic Flip" (Ace of Hearts AHS 10018); appearing Saturday at 8 at Gaston Hall at Georgetown University with Ran Blake.