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Avanti!

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Album Review

In these challenging times, it's nice to count on something that seems to be getting better instead of worse. Miriodor have been around now for about 30 years, quite an accomplishment in itself, but perhaps more amazingly, every CD they release improves in some way upon the last. A case in point is Avanti! (Onward!), the band's seventh Cuneiform CD, released in May 2009. You might take note of the cover — not as garish or whimsical as previous albums — before the music even begins. The front cover photo shows keyboardist Pascal Globensky, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Bernard Falaise, bassist/keyboardist Nicolas Masino, and drummer Rémi Leclerc four abreast in a stark white twisting corridor accompanied by a pair of out-of-focus passersby. The photography, by Patrick La Roque, is meant to suggest movement, but at least as far as that front cover is concerned, the impression is one of Miriodor standing solid and motionless while others move around them. The back cover reveals that the track lengths are comparatively long — not "Supper's Ready" length, but ranging between six-plus and ten-plus minutes, meaning there are less than half as many compositions (seven in total) as typical on the band's previous studio discs. And when you get past the cover and into the music itself, you find that Miriodor take full advantage of the lengthier pieces to push the music ever forward, cruising past previous boundary markers while maintaining a greater sense of organic flow and, yes, groove. Not to mention noise and heaviosity, as the first roaring moments of opening track "Envoutement" (Bewitchment) reveal, with Leclerc's cymbals filling all available cracks in the sound and Masino's bass in speaker-busting mode. This is probably the heaviest Miriodor ever. When the focus sharpens and the instruments stand out in crisp relief, the contrast is startling.

The sonic palette throughout Avanti! nearly overwhelms the ears, although Miriodor, as always, demonstrate uncanny skills in managing their sound universe and apparently kept overdubbing to a minimum here. Falaise is a mixologist of the highest order, as he proved on his Ambiances Magnétiques release Clic. There are also some inspired guest appearances that truly rock the house, notably tenor/baritone saxophonist Pierre Labbé and trumpeter Maxime St-Pierre, who punch up "Bolide Débile" (Dare Devil) with their party-ready horn section (and St-Pierre's soaring solo) before a thicket of intertwining keyboards and ascending guitar lines take the party somewhere else entirely, with sampled vocals over spiraling rhythms suggesting a Rock in Opposition answer to My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Soprano saxophonist Marie-Chantal Leclair, familiar to Miriodor fans, appears on "La Roche" (Meeting Point), entering with a flurry of notes and joining Falaise in the tune's nearly whimsical melody line, deceptively light given the later powerful climax filled with wide-interval leaps shooting from Falaise's axe as Globensky contributes concise and perfectly placed keyboard embellishments. With its 5/4 rhythmic underpinning beneath ghostly effects, counterpoint melodies, and some flat-out spectacular Falaise guitar, "Avanti!" is an apt title track, nearly a full-album summation in eight minutes that truly move. But at ten and a half minutes, "A Determiner" (To Be Determined) is one of the disc's most ambitious outings, filled with themes and variations as the piece becomes more highly charged and unbridled before finishing in grooving piano-driven funk territory. Some might consider it a stretch to suggest this track extends nearly from Satie to Brötzmann (the latter courtesy of skronky firebrand Labbé) on the intensity meter — but believe it. In the cover photo Miriodor may seem incongruously stationary for an album titled "Onward!" — but perhaps the reason is that they are the journey's destination. On Avanti! Miriodor have climbed their highest peak yet and now stand patiently waiting for you to discover them.

Biography

Formed: 1980 in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As of 2013 and the release of Cobra Fakir, Montreal avant-prog group Miriodor were still carrying the flag they first hoisted over 30 years earlier as one of the first groups on the "rock" side of the Quebec-based musique actuelle equation. At their inception, Miriodor could also be viewed as North American practitioners of the Rock in Opposition (RIO) style pioneered by such European groups as Henry Cow, Etron Fou Leloublan, Débile Menthol — instrumental prog rock with the requisite technical...
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Avanti!, Miriodor
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