Miriodor – Signal 9 – Cuneiform, Rune

Miriodor – Signal 9 [TrackList follows] – Cuneiform, Rune 438, 52:15 [9/5/17] ****:

Miriodor: keeping the movement alive.

(Bernard Falaise – guitar, keys, turntable; Pascal Globensky – keys, synth, piano; Rémi Leclerc –percussion, drums, electronics; Nicolas Lessard – bass, contrabass, keys)

There are musical genres, such as punk, bluegrass and reggae. Then there are musical movements, which are revolutionary, methodical and unifying. The Rock In Opposition (or RIO) movement is a faction of progressive music which was pioneered by the English avant-rockers Henry Cow, the French ensemble Art Zoyd (which merges free jazz, progressive rock and avant-garde electronica) and Univers Zéro, the instrumental progressive Belgian band. On this side of the Atlantic, the premier practitioners of the RIO movement are the members of Montreal, Canada group Miriodor (who blend jazz, classical, rock and other international influences), which formed in 1980 and issued their first LP in 1984. Miriodor has had a fruitful and long history with the forward-seeking Cuneiform label, which released Miriodor’s ninth album, fittingly titled Signal 9. There is an otherworldly aspect to the 11 tracks, which Miriodor keyboardist Pascal Globensky explains is deliberate. “Metaphorically, we could say that Miriodor is a planet, with aliens communicating in their mysterious ways with planet Earth.” In that spirit, Signal 9 might be thought of as the ninth set of musical messages from that enigmatic cosmic orb.

Over the course of 52 minutes, Miriodor constructs some of their heaviest sounds to date but there is also a dose of off-kilter humor and moments of beautiful, contemplative material. Each piece twists and turns with evocative melodies, unsettling production effects, rhythms which alternate and oscillate, and auditory contrasts that can sometimes be jarring for the uninitiated. One new thing: Miriodor has changed from trio to quartet. Bassist Nicolas Lessard officially joins the ranks of Bernard Falaise (guitar, keys, turntable), Globensky (keys, synth, piano) and Rémi Leclerc (percussion, drums, electronics).

Miriodor opens with the suitably named “Venin” (“Venom” in English), which includes thorny, vigorous riffs which seesaw into a few quieter instances. The tune’s four minutes go by with a loose and quixotic equilibrium which brings to mind a cross between King Crimson and Frank Zappa. The sense of perfected imbalance continues on “Peinturé Dans le Coin” (translated from the French into English as “Painted in the Corner”). Miriodor utilizes a jumpy, jazz-like groove which stays outside the lines, and a bent metrical foundation. Keys and guitar punctuate the arrangement with heavy riffs and scattershot notes. One of the record’s longer cuts is the nearly nine-minute “Portrait-robot,” where the King Crimson-esque mood is at the forefront. Essentially, “Portrait-robot” is a suite of sorts. It starts with a Krautrock rhythmic resolve (think artists such as Can or Cul de Sac), and then Miriodor kicks off with a barbed melody, squalling electronics, hard-hitting guitar and thrashing drums and bass. But in typical Miriodor fashion, the piece dissolves into an ambient section focusing on atmospheric electronics and whispered, unintelligible voices. Just as quickly, the music resumes the fervent rhythm and dense sounds…and then out of nowhere, Miriodor perform jokey, circus-like music. Before that comical theme hangs around too much, Miriodor curves into the tune’s concluding thematic segment which fuses the rock and ambient portions.

The alien, eerie sensibility rises to the top on the lengthy, almost seven-minute “Chapelle Lunaire” (“Lunar Chapel” in English). Here, Miriodor combines a doom-laden and end-of-world tonality with a lightly palpitating jazz pulse. The modifying arrangement has slices of the lighter side of the English prog rock Canterbury scene (think Robert Wyatt or Caravan) with fanciful choruses and irregular musical motifs. “Chapelle Lunaire” also has Miriodor’s usual abbreviated musical eccentricities. The result is a tune with a narrative comparable to a musical interpretation of James Joyce’s literary stream-of-consciousness. In keeping with its off-tilted approach, Miriodor pepper Signal 9 with short, cryptic cuts such as the racing “Déboires à Munich” (AKA “Drinks in Munich” in English), which includes backward-sounding vocals; the SF-tinted “Cryogénie” (or “Cryogenics” in English), which would not seem out of place in a Guy Maddin movie; and the Residents-like “Gallinule d’Amérique” (which in English is “Common of America”), which features a weird, unsettling vibe. Miriodor conclude with the shadowy “Le Ventrilogue et le Perroquet” (or in English, “The Ventriloquist and the Parrot”), an eight-minute piece which takes the idea of instrumental storytelling to a higher level. There are more of the puzzling and manipulated voices which season other tunes (perhaps the ventriloquist is trying to tell us something?); abundant musical trellises from keyboards and guitar; woozy synthesizer sounds; shifting bass and drum rhythms; menacing undercurrents; and repeating, thick riffs. Miriodor is not an easy group to grasp. Certainly an open mind is needed to find common ground with their liberal slant on non-mainstream composition and performance. But for those who prefer edgy music which lies far apart from conventions, than its time to listen to Miriodor.

TrackList:
Venin
Peinturé Dans le Coin
Transit de Nuit à Jakarta
Portrait-robot
Déboires à Munich
Chapelle Lunaire
Cryogénie
Passage secret
Gallinule d’Amérique
Douze Petites Asperges
Le Ventrilogue et le Perroquet

—Doug Simpson

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