genre: rio, prog
quality : lossless (ape, cue, log, scans)
time: 1:00`53" size: 381 mb
Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, April 2002
If we look at the word "progressive," a term bandied about here on this site to describe various different styles and flavour of music, we see that its definition is "a moving forward." In one line of thinking, the term has been misapplied to more than one artist we've reviewed here. That is, bands that create music that looks backward can hardly be said to be "progressive." But, the word, as regards music, has outgrown its definition, has become a jargonistic term describing a broad genre of music. And you well know that trying to define exactly what constitutes "progressive" is an issue surer to start an argument, perhaps fisticuffs, long before any kind of answer is arrived at. Eventually we get caught in a recursive loop, where the definition is the term is the definition, progressive music is music that is progressive. Round and round and round and round until our head spins and we think life would be easier if we just listened to jazz. Or pop. Or metal. Or...well, and which flavor of those, eh? Which suggests that the term is meaningless and should fall out of use. Saying so is sort of like biting myself in the ass (ouch), since there is not other term to describe, in broad terms, what we review here.
This chaotic churning of thought comes about after having listened to and currently listening to Miriodor's latest release Mekano. The frenetic, bouncy, upbeat, energetic enthusiasm here is the same we get from French TV, among others. It is jazz on acid -- not to be confused, I don't think, with acid jazz. It is jazz on something that makes one hyperactive, bouncing off the walls, zipping around the room like a kid with ADHD (the 28-second opening track is a perfect example of this in microcosm). Pieces don't stay focused on any one thing for very long, develop patterns in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way. As if in playing one part, an idea comes to mind, and becomes the new path. Imagine if you will, using the music "Avatar" as an example, watching intersecting freeways from above. Vehicles scurry here and there, changing lanes and direction (exchanges). But panning back, we see these aren't real cars on a real freeway, but remote controlled by a kid, who in the end decides to stomp on all the cars (this latter image represented by drum and bass playing a single down note).
And that doesn't entirely describe what you will hear here, and I'm not sure I really could describe this. At least not without painting very long word pictures spanning several pages. There are so many sound effects - whirls, whoops, ticks, clicks, clocks, tocks -- it's like being in a toy factory, or, what really jumped to mind, Willy Wonka's Chocoate Factory. Not so much found sounds, as this is all created on conventional instrumentation, for the most part. Bernard Falaise is on guitar, fretless bass, and turn table; Pascal Globensky on numerical piano and synthesizers, Rémi Leclerc on drums, percussion, and sampler; and Nicolas Masino on bass, numerical piano, and keyboards. Marie-Chantal Leclair guests on sax while Marie-Soleil Bélanger guests on violin and Némo Venba guests on trumpet. While shorts cuts aren't always helpful, let me just say two things: Cuneiform Records and RIO. What that means to me is music that is, on the surface, conventional, but then throws in unconventional twists and turns. It fits together two disparate elements that alone are perfectly "normal," creating something that isn't. The colours are bold, comical in an over-the-top Groucho Marx kind of way.
None of this would work if there wasn't a solid musical foundation with which to work. Miriodor have been making music for 20 years, though this my first brush with their music. There are heavy, rock rhythms a la King Crimson, angular and metallic. passages that are lyrical and melodic,... and quite a bit else. And that just describes the second track "Le Régne Des Termites (Bugs)," which begins with a very wet sound, gets "conventional" in the middle with a lyrical, cheerful guitar passage, before something more menacing appears and the guitar phrases become harsher, quicker paced, and far from cheery. Perhaps one might say the happily chowing down termites meet the determined Terminex man and his poison spray. While the "Terminator" (really, the commercials use that) wins the battle, the termites win the war, returning to their meal, only a little more wiser.
Light, playful and angular is how I would describe "Le Sorcier (The Warlock)." Whimsical at times. "Mangeur De Masters (A Master Tape Snack)" is, at times, like a drunken tango -- a litte wobbly, but determined to get from point A to point B (wobbly in terms of sound, not performance). Later we'll get a western polka with "La Polka Des Sphères (Polka Of The Spheres)," the short piece that ends the album. "Le Roi Soldat (The Soldier King)" is, at first, a sedate piece, with a brassy trumpet in the lead. This goes from tightly in time, to each instrument slightly out of phase, to a darker, dischordant passage, to a playful, fair-like theme... "Singularité (Aztek Boogie)" is of two minds, one is rock, one is studied jazz, the latter being calm, at ease. This gives way to the angular "L'inévitable (The Inevitable)" where bursts of sound blurt in and out, sometimes in short bursts (as in the beginning), sometimes in longer phrases ... then we get wound up like a rubber band, twisting tighter and tighter, let loose for a minute as a tease, and then we are twisted even tighter ... until we've gotten so twisted that we invert, suddenly exploring a strange inner world. Only to be untwisted abruptly at the end and returned to normal space.
Speaking of space, that what we get with "Le Fantome De M.C. Ecsher (The Ghost Of M.C. Escher)." What this artist did with space in physical art, Miriodor do with musical art. What from one angle seems one thing, from another appears to be something else. The Marx Bros. come to mind here for a brief passage, with the "boings," "bzzerts," and other assorted sounds that I know I couldn't spell, popping in like water bubbles, popping instantly. And then we get another angle -- harsh, heavy, and clangorous. A miama of sound that crashes together like a tornado sucking everything into its center.
Pieces range from the brief, the shortest being the 28-second opener "La Célèbre Boucie (The Famous Loop)," to the extended, the longest being the six and half minute "Le Sorcier," though most are in the 3 - 5 minute range. While the overall feel is of constant activity, there are some moments that are beautiful. As I said, if these musicians didn't have the talent they couldn't pull this off. It'd sound like a ill-timed mishmash of communication breakdown. No, as wild as it gets, you know Miriodor are in control of things. It may seem to go off the rails, but the rails are still there, they just blend in with terrain.
I have to say that I really like this. Anyone who knows me, knows that I can be a bit frenetic like this, jumping from topic to topic as things crop up. I don't half wonder if this review is written a bit like that as well. Mekano is never boring, that's for sure, as it'll keep you on your toes. It keeps moving forward -- well then, this is progressive. When the band was announced for NEARFest 2002, I immediately (or nearly so) headed off to my favourite "prog place" and picked this up. I predict that after their perfomance at NEARfest this year, the attendees will be abuzz on an overdose of adrenaline. Prepare yourself -- buy this.
1. La cèlébre boucle (0:28)
2. Le règne des termites (4:06)
3. Le sorcier (6:29)
4. Mine de rien (3:49)
5. Mille-pattes (1:03)
6. Toutes proportions gardées (6:27)
7. IGA (0:41)
8. Mangeur de masters (3:35)
9. Le roi soldat (4:08)
10. Pas à ce que je sache, Sacha (5:56)
11. Singularité (4:54)
12. L'inévitable (5:17)
13. Avatar (5:16)
14. Le fantôme de M.C. Escher (6:22)
15. La polka des sphères (1:14)
Bernard Falaise - guitars, fretless bass, turntable
Pascal Globensky - digital piano, synths
Rémi Leclerc - drums, percussion, sampler
Nicolas Masino - bass, digital piano, keys
Marie-Chantal Leclair - saxes
Mari-Soleil Bélanger - violin
Némo Venba - trumpet