Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
Miriodor – Avanti! – Cuneiform Rune
Published on July 21, 2009
Miriodor – Avanti! – Cuneiform Rune 288, 60:39 ****:
(Bernard Falaise – guitar, fretless bass, mandolin, banjo, clavier, turntable; Pascal Globensky – clavier, synthesizer, piano; Rémi Leclerc – drums, samples, percussion; Nicolas Masino – bass, clavier, piano; Pierre Labbé – tenor and baritone saxophones; Marie-Chantal Leclair – soprano saxophone; Maxime St-Pierré – trumpet)
The title of Montreal ensemble Miriodor’s new album is well-named. Avanti means onward, and the hour-long Avanti! shows the rock-oriented, post-modern chamber music band continues its ongoing, 30-year cycle with steadfast artistic development. Miriodor presents an avant/new music approach similar to likeminded factions such as Univers Zéro or Henry Cow, combining improvisation with tightly structured arrangements, elements of jazz fusion with rock instrumentation, and technical virtuosity that never falls into the trap of pomposity or overindulgence.
Compared to previous releases, the track lengths on Avanti! are relatively protracted, extending between nearly seven to over ten minutes, and the payoff is that Miriodor takes full advantage by propelling the musical vision ever onward. The spacious framework allows ample room for ambition, contrast, and a larger and broader sonic canvas.
The proceedings begin with "Envoûtement" (Bewitchment), initially marked by a crackle and Pascal Globensky’s gentle synth, and then noise and a heavy metal roar rise up, akin to Vocokesh or Paik’s stout-lidded riffing. Rémi Leclerc’s thick cymbals fill any open spaces while Nicolas Masino’s bass thunders out of the speakers, and then Bernard Falaise’s guitar quickly doubles the bass. When the focal point transforms with the arrival of a programmed rhythm and the instruments suddenly turn acute in detail, the disparity is striking. Soon afterward the dark gloom circles back, before an ever-changing rhythmic section emerges, reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats era or Brand X’s early body of work. A folk-ish interlude, a funky groove, and an angled but maintained melody all fly past. The song finishes in a spare and witty way with a keyboard solo and a final paraphrase of the main theme. "Envoûtement" (Bewitchment) is representative of Miriodor’s compositional methodology, where each piece is divided into various recurring or thematic units differentiated by unhindered, nonlinear intervals, or the material can be intensified by deliberate and then brisk sections, odd meters, and so forth.
Second piece, "Bolide Débile" (Dare Devil), is another inspired composition, highlighted by a guest horn duo, tenor/baritone saxophonist Pierre Labbé and trumpeter Maxime St-Pierré. The sax and trumpet provide an energetic jab to the interweaved arrangement that also includes clustered keyboards, shifting guitar lines, sampled vocals, and curling bass and drum rhythms. Controlled distortion, clamorous synth streaks and striated six-string adjoin the complexity, which is mercurial but at no time overwhelming.
Soprano saxophonist Marie-Chantal Leclair, who has performed on other Miriodor projects, appears on "La Roche" (Meeting Point). After the uncomplicated main theme is introduced, Leclair enters with a series of breathy percussive effects that are countered by ghostly voices and a tempered keyboard melody. The deceitfully light arrangement, however, builds and escalates, dips and ebbs, and mounts again with Leclerc’s leaping percussion, Globensky’s shots of synth, and Falaise’s agitated guitar.
One of the record’s formidable tracks is the many-sided and multiform "Écart-Type" (Standard Deviation), crammed with motifs, points of departure, and uncurbed variations. The twisting and animated cut is ardently self-possessed, crossing from found sound instances to Middle Eastern inflections to a groove-driven funk expanse: and that’s just the first minute. Some might think that the tune stretches across too much terrain, but Miriodor is able to keep the dissimilar extensions in a sort of schizoid balance: the forthright musical repartee evokes the spirit of free-thinkers such as Peter Brötzmann or John Zorn. And yet that mischief-making outing is only a warm-up to the ten-plus minute "À Déterminer" (To Be Determined), which brims over with constantly angular interaction. The volume and intensity go up and down several different levels, with barking keyboards set off against stabs of shrieking sax, warped vocals stacked on top of forceful drums, and a gracious opening pattern that is in contention with the song’s closing mayhem.
Not to belabor the message, but the three-decades old Miriodor does not make music for the marketplace. Rather, this is an assemblage that does not care for following any expectations, other than the one where creativity is tantamount, and an artist should go wherever the muse leads.
1. Envoûtement (Bewitchment)
2. Bolide Débile (Dare Devil)
3. La Roche (Meeting Point)
4. Écart-Type (Standard Deviation)
5. À Déterminer (To Be Determined)
6. Avanti! (Onward!)
7. Réveille-Matin (Shadow of the Alarm Clock)
— Doug Simpson