Miriodor – Cobra Fakir – Cuneiform Rune 368, 50:19 [9/24/13] ****:
(Bernard Falaise – guitar, bass, keyboards, banjo, turntable, producer, mixer, editor; Pascal Globensky – keyboards, synth, piano; Rémi Leclerc – drums, percussion, keyboards, turntable)
The music fashioned by Canadian group Miriodor has always been outside the box. Miriodor was formed in the early 1980s in Quebec. Co-founder Pascal Globensky (who plays several keyboards) and drummer Rémi Leclerc (who also adds percussion, keys and turntable effects) are currently the only remaining members from that earlier era. Right from the start, Miriodor was known for making music which did not easily fit into any specific category, but did show a philosophy equivalent to European ensembles who were aligned with the Rock in Opposition (RIO) style pioneered by acts such as Henry Cow, Univers Zéro and others, who merge progressive rock, avant-garde music, and intricate chamber music. Miriodor, however, often gravitates toward the rock side of the RIO quotient: instrumental prog rock with essential technical proficiencies and virtuosity, but none of the pretension which permeates more-recognized prog rock outfits.
On the group’s eighth studio album, Cobra Fakir, the band creates a captivating 11-track collection which bursts with abundant musicianship, noteworthy tunes and a distinctive and personal sound. Once again, Miriodor has collapsed to a core trio: the newest configuration is Globensky, Leclerc and long-time participant Bernard Falaise (who stayed busy on the sessions: he played guitar, bass, keyboards, banjo, turntable, and also produced, mixed and edited the material into the final, 50-minute result). There are also no guests, although overdubbing imparts a generous auditory landscape. Cobra Fakir was released in September, 2013 as compact disc, limited-edition vinyl and digital download. This review refers to the CD (which has different artwork than the vinyl edition, but all editions share the same tunes).
Despite the reduction to three artists, Cobra Fakir has an expansive flavor, due in part to Leclerc’s various percussive objects and mechanisms (both acoustic and electronic), which provide a broader range of colorful tonalities in the percussive area; and Falaise’s numerous instrumental elements, which bring a multitude of textures to the arrangements. Globensky also blended in improvised slices, aural ingredients and atmospheric components to key passages. That means each cut is nearly a small creation by itself, with inventive niches and junctures which can be discovered with multiple listening.
Opener, “La roue” (French for a dissolute and licentious man) is notable for Falaise’s arpeggiated acoustic guitar, which is a slightly unexpected twist, since Miriodor usually utilizes electric instruments. But in typical Miriodor fashion, the tune quickly shape-shifts with layers of amped-up instruments and the threesome fasten onto a circling, multi-rhythmic groove which has dense percussive strata and accents, contrapuntal melodic riffs, and digital sound-effects extracts. The lengthy title track has a similar stratagem, with a hospitable and jazzy melodic riff, more arpeggios in the keyboard lines, and a progressive arrangement where electric guitar and myriad keyboard and synth overtones rise and then disappear. There is a sense of both spontaneity and machine-like intent, and even wit, when a zippy accordion-like keyboard solo slips in at the end. The band’s give-and-take on the title track can be experienced on an officially-posted live video (which includes a guest bassist).
The trio never stays in one stylistic place for too long. For example, there are ambient and also harsher tones on “Speed-dating sur Mars” (i.e., “Speed-dating over or above Mars”), where ambient sections ascend and then are chewed apart by heavier parts with hefty electric guitar, discordant drums, and weightier and louder keyboard shapes. This cut is a multi-tiered and miniature opus with complexly constructed changes, a knotty development, and an array of sonic textures. The towering “Titan” also has a thicker design, with Falaise’s electric guitar shredding in the foreground, while Globensky furnishes a Hammond organ quality. “Titan” is evocative of some 1970s hard rock, such as that purveyed by Uriah Heep. Miriodor has also posted an authorized live version of “Titan” which curious listeners can enjoy. Falaise’s acoustic guitar resurfaces during “Tandem,” which also has unconventional yet careful aural contrasts, including an eccentric electric guitar explosion, a bit of banjo, artful and variable keyboard arpeggios, and unanticipated diversions such as synth slices masquerading as flute and vibes; acoustic piano; and friendly melodic lines, none of which ever quite smooth out the track’s thematic, unhinged stability. The group’s most unsettling work comes at the conclusion, with the shortened, forebodingly droning “Expérience 7,” which has a cinematic characteristic, especially with sounds of footsteps and menacing horn-like noises. The band’s shadow-suffused, online video is equally eerie, like something found in a Japanese horror film (think the 2001 movie Kairo, otherwise called Pulse).
TrackList: La roue; Cobra Fakir; RVB7; Paris-Roubaix; Titan; Un cas sibérien; Speed-dating sur Mars; Tandem; Maringouin; Space Cowboy; Expérience 7.