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Miriodor: Avanti! (Cuneiform Rune 288)

United States
“…densely packed with ideas yet paradoxically light in feel, offering up something new for the senses at every turn. The music is both entertainingly accessible and startlingly inventive…

…one of the finest bands ever to emerge from the Quebec musique actuele scene.” – All Music Guide

“…they are one of the finest exponents of the RIO sub genre on the market today. Always inventive, always surprising and always just a little off-kilter.” – ghostland.com

“…full of fire and eclecticism.” – Gibraltar

4th May 2009 — Birthplace of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, the performing arts troupe who reinvented the circus for the new Millennium, and the critically-acclaimed band Miriodor, whose genre-transcendent musical acrobatics catapult instrumental rock into the 21st Century, Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec is an artistic hotbed. Looking internally and to Europe for inspiration while attempting to avoid influence from the entertainment industry in the United States, Quebecois artists have produced some of the most radically innovative music and performing arts to emerge from North America. Among the numerous highly original and uncompromising musical cooperatives – Ambiance Magnetiques/D.A.M.E., Godspeed You ! Black Emperor, and more– operating in French Canada in the decades surrounding the new Millennium, the key musical resource on the internet, the All Music Guide, singled out Miriodor as “…one of the finest bands ever to emerge from the Quebec musique actuele scene.”

A Montreal-based quartet, Miriodor create instrumental music that is complex, playful, visually evocative, and exquisitely performed. The band describes its sound as “like a soundtrack for a movie, a movie with weird and strange stories,” and indeed, each CD is like a book of short video stories, each differing in subject and mood. The band’s gem-like compositions, each as intricate as an Escher drawing and entertaining as fun-house mirrors, have been praised as “ominous, ferocious, and zany…complex musical mayhem” [Sea of Tranquility], exuding “a darkly comic dysfunction Tim Burton would give his eyeteeth for.” [Michigan Independent]. Miriodor’s distinctive compositions and rigorous musicianship have identified it as the main Canadian exponent of the R.I.O. (Rock In Opposition) sound with a light-hearted, unpresumptuous, and sincerely entertaining twist.

Miriodor was formed in Quebec City in 1980 by Pascal Globensky and Francois Emond. By the end of 1983, it solidified its lineup as a sextet and began recording its 1st LP, Rencontres. Self-released in 1985, Rencontres was a “classic” progressive rock album; it remains the only symphonic rock with vocals recording in Miriodor’s oeuvre. By 1985, members Emond, Globensky, Sabin Hudon, and Rémi LeClerc had relocated to Montreal and reformed Miriodor as a quartet. The band released Tot au Tard, a cassette of recordings made by the Quebec City and Montreal lineups. In 2006, Cuneiform reissued the lp and cassette as a CD titled Rencontres, delighting progressive rock audiences. Critic Peter Thelen “Highly recommended” the CD as “...a meeting ground of many of the best elements progressive rock has to offer”, noting that 1980s Miriodor was “a perfect marriage between the more chamber-oriented sound of bands like Univers Zero and (later) Henry Cow, and the more symphonic woodwind-oritented sound of bands like Happy the Man and VDGG.

By the late 1980s, Miriodor – a trio after Emond left the band – began to attract worldwide attention. Chris Cutler published a Miriodor song in England’s ReR Quarterly. The US-based Cuneiform label signed Miriodor and released all of the band’s subsequent recordings, beginning in 1988 with the band’s 2nd LP, the self-titled Miriodor. Immediately afterwards, Miriodor performed at FIMAV, the prestigious international festival of New Music/Musique Actuelle held in Victoriaville, Quebec. It subsequently toured France and Belgium and, in 1991, released its 3rd record, Third Warning. In late 1993, guitarist Bernard Falaise joined Miriodor, bringing to the band a sharper, ‘grittier’, more rock-based sound. Between then and Miriodor’s 1995 recording, Elastic Juggling, saxist Hudon left the band. Elastic Juggling received widespread critical acclaim; All Music Guide gave it four stars, praising its “concise, intricately arranged compositions and sudden shifts in mood from one typically short track to the next...”. Its accessible yet sophisticated, genre-defiant music appealed to a wide range of festivals, and soon Miriodor played at the International Computer Music Congress; made its USA debut in 1996 at Baltimore’s progressive rock festival, ProgScape, and played at the Montreal Jazz Fest. In 2000, Miriodor played at Edgefest, a festival of avant-garde music held in Ann Arbor, MI.

In 2002, Miriodor released Mekano, its 5th album. It marked the debut of Miriodor’s current lineup: a new bassist and keyboard player, Nicolas Masino, joined long-time members Globensky (keyboards), Leclerc (drums) and Falaise (guitar). While the quartet jointly produced the band’s compositions, it invited a trio of guests - Marie-Chantal Leclair (saxes), Marie-Soliel Bélanger (violin), and Némo Venba (trumpet) – to augment the band’s sound. Widely praised by specialty rock critics as one of the year’s best, Mekano received a perfect rating - 5 stars - from Sea of Tranquility. Alternative Press noted that “what makes the current band so impressive is the graceful, almost effortless way they execute all their complex musical moves, with scarcely a trace of irony or self-conscious cleverness.”

Immediately following Mekano’s release, Miriodor performed at the 4th annual NEARfest, ‘the most prestigious progressive music festival in the world.’ Performing before an audience of 1,850 in the Trenton War Memorial Theatre on June 29th 2002, Miriodor was the festival’s surprise hit, converting hundreds of first-time listeners into devoted fans. Mirodor’s NearFEST appearance established the band’s reputation as world-class performers, and proved that their witty and sophisticated tunes were both accessible and thrilling to audiences typically drawn to more mainstream music. Miriodor returned to NearFEST by request to perform at the 2003 pre-show. Additional festival appearances followed, with Miriodor playing again at Edgefest in 2004, appearing as a headliner at Portugal’s sold-out 2005 Gouevia Art Rock Festival, and performing at the 2005 Guelph Jazz Fest.

In 2005, Cuneiform released Miriodor’s 6th release, a double CD consisting of the band’s new studio recording, Parade, on Disc 1, and a live recording of their 2002 NEARfest performance on Disc 2. Italian critic Massimo Ricci called the release “easily…the best avant-progressive music I’ve heard in the new millennium.” Parade featured Miriodor’s well-established performance ensemble - the Miriodor quartet and long-standing guests Belanger and Leclair - as well as a very special guest who was one of Miriodor’s musical heroes and a founding member of the RIO movement: the late Lars Hollmer, who recently died, on Christmas 2008. The Swedish Grammy-award-winning composer and accordionist/keyboardist had composed, co-composed and performed on 3 tracks for Parade for an immensely successful collaboration. Disc 2 of Miriodor’s 2005 release, Live at NEARfest 2002, was the band’s first live release; All Music Guide noted, “The biggest kick might be hearing the band win over the crowd as the set progresses...the 1,800-plus audience seems to realize what a phenomenal performance it is witnessing, and erupts with thunderous applause.” The double-disc release prompted Exposé magazine to note that: “Miriodor is certainly one of the hottest bands in the business right now on Cuneiform. ….With these two new recordings Miriodor stands as the premier ensemble from their home country and on an international stage.”

Following the release of Parade + Live at NEARfest, Miriodor began working on new material and playing twice at the Le Festival des Musiques Progressives de Montreal (FMPM), French Canada’s annual international festival of progressive rock. Miriodor’s new CD, titled Avanti!, is the band’s seventh release. When asked to supply some thoughts on Avanti!, band member Pascal Globensky replied:

“Fortuitously placed under the sign of number seven, Miriodor’s seventh album contains seven songs…for a total of 60 minutes of dense and twisted music, à la Miriodor. The band, now in its 30th year of existence, has attained a level of cohesion and complicity that sometimes baffles even its more recent members, those who have only been around for 15 years or so... At the core of this production are the usual partners in crime : Bernard Falaise (guitars, stringed instruments, etc.), Pascal Globensky (keyboards, synthesizer, piano), Rémi Leclerc (drums, percussion, sampler) and Nicolas Masino (bass, keyboards). On this album, we tried to develop our playing as a quartet, so about half the album has no outside guests, no sequences and just a few overdubs. On the other pieces we are joined by Pierre “The Preacher” Labbé on tenor and barytone saxes, regular acolyte Marie-Chantal Leclair on soprano saxophone, and Maxime St-Pierre on trumpet.”

Avanti! celebrates the Miriodor quartet and key collaborators as the band approaches its third decade. Whereas the music is typically ‘Miriodor’ –– each tune a sonic mini-movie that explores a mood, theme or idea (often reflected in the song titles), the sound is fresh, incorporating new sonic and stylistic elements. Miriodor’s albums since Jonglieres typically featured numerous guests; however, Avanti! contains several tracks featuring only the quartet, undubbed. Avanti! also differs from prior albums, in that Miriodor here handles all mixing “in house”. Falaise did the mixing and production for Avanti!, adding innovative touches that add a new dimension to Miriodor’s music without overwhelming the integrity of the underlying musical work.

The artwork on Avanti! likewise conveys a new, fresh aesthetic. The CD features stark, near-monochrome, and stunningly elegant photographs of Miriodor members by the Quebecois photographer Patrick La Roque. Some of the photos show figures in blurred motion, reflective of the “on the move” musical compositions and the album’s title. Miriodor’s releases are notable for championing the Quebecois visual art scene; the band carefully selects a local artist for each of its releases, and often the musical and visual themes on each release reflect each other. On Avanti!, Miriodor prove themselves to be one of the most “progressive” bands in the world, in the true sense of the word “progressive”: Miriodor’s music remains on the move, as the band continues to explore realms of new sonic richness to construct tuneful new compositional delights.

To celebrate the release of Avanti!, Le Festival des Musiques Progressives de Montreal (FMPM) has invited Miriodor to headline their three-day international festival, on the final night, September 13, 2009.
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