The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist: Champion Birdwatchers
Label: Independent
Time: 4 tracks/24:33 min.

For the true fan, here it is: The Champion Birdwatchers' first release, Perhelion EP, now available through  Originally issued only on tape, the four song EP can be pressed onto a D.A.M. CD for a modest $7.99 fee.  While having the EP on CD is exciting in and of itself, the D.A.M. CD  technology leaves a bit to be desired.  On one hand, inserting the disc into the computer pulls up a menu to play the songs, read lyrics, and read a short history and bio of the band.  On the other hand, the background crackling and hissing leaves the listener wondering if they're starting to develop tinnitus.  Production, which wasn't all that good on the original tape, suffers even further from this.

Still, this EP is as good as the full length The Inconsolable Longing, and has a better sense of continuity and song structure.  Songs such as "a translation of merganser part 4" are indicative of how this band started to develop a unique style, with the guitar-groove chorus and psychedelic acid-trip opening.  The song "Solid," as featured on the Sparkler sampler, is probably the closest thing to normal song structure the band has achieved, and the difference between this stand-alone cut and the rest of the EP is noticeable.  While it may not sound all that great, this is an absolute must-have for the Champion Birdwatcher fan, and a worthy introduction for the casual listener.

Joe Rockstroh   9/2/99