Friday, August 14, 2009

A Molson and A Jack

MIRIODOR – “Avanti!” CD ’09 (Cuneiform, Can) – I’m not going to do it this time…I swear to God, I’m not. I’m not going to start this review off with the words “Ages ago….” I know, I know, I love telling stories and everybody digs a good yarn but…well, I’ll tell a short one anyway but I just won’t start it off “Ages ago….” How ‘bout I roll with “Some years back?” That work? Ok, then. Some years back, my good ol’ prog rock CD dealer buddy Chris Lamka put on a couple shows at Towson University in Baltimore. My oh my, they were wonderful affairs! And I’m not talking about some dream of hooking up with the milf next door, I mean they were great gatherings of all things cutting edge musically. Within just 20 minutes drive time from my house, I saw a blistering succession of such bands as Anekdoten, Mastermind, Braindance, Discipline, Eclat, etc. One of the groups that trod the boards at the 1996 version of Progscape was Canada’s MIRIODOR. Now, I’m the kinda guy who’s always tried to be open-minded but, you see, those 13 years in the past (I didn’t say “Ages ago!”) I was just worming my way into things that were truly progressive and, unfortunately, MIRIODOR were a little too much for me. Their full-on instrumental RIO (rock in opposition) style, combining a brain-stretching stew of jazz, chamber music and progressive rock with math-like rhythm changes was simply more than my feeble brain could handle at the time. It was a few years later, however, that I sat in the basement of a drummer friend, drinking beer and listening to Belgian RIO band Present that it came into focus for me. Later, I saw MIRIODOR’s “Mekano” disc at a local store, picked it up and got completely immersed. So, the ol’ Ray-man was wracked with the ecstasy of delight (what the hell?!?) when he ambled into a store not long ago and found this new 2009 release, “Avanti!” waiting in the “M” section.

Simply put, “Avanti!” is easily MIRIODOR’s best album to date and you know I’m going to tell you why, don’t you? I always do when I’m all excited about something, so here’s the nuts of it. Still present in great part are all the things that make this band what they’ve been on their previous 5 albums: the twists, the turn-on-a-dime rhythms, the absolutely impossible musicianship, the quirky arrangements. Throughout the course of this 60+ minute journey MIRIODOR (Bernard Falaise – guitar, Pascal Globensky – keyboards, Remi Leclerc – drums, Nicolas Masino – bass & keys) lay down a clinic on not only how to take their instruments apart down to their very DNA but to somehow then fuse together into a unit tighter than just about any woman you've ever...well, you get the idea. Embellishing this all with some guest appearances by horn players they can take music you may have heard by people like Mr. Bungle and make it sound like one of the sloppier rehearsal nights by your Uncle Vinnie’s wedding band. But where MIRIODOR have upped the ante so much this time around is to kick up the groove factor pretty fucking serious. Grab an auditory hold on opener “Envoutement” (Bewitchment). The syncopated rhythm combined with the flowing, pulsing groove has me simultaneously picking my jaw up off the floor and throwing my back out. Shit, this album is dangerous to the health! Then, within the same 9 minutes, Falaise lays down a jarring distorted wall of guitar before the band lapses into a smoky jazz interlude. And it goes on like this through 6 more songs, each in the 8-10 minute range but none getting a spot boring. The interesting thing is this. These guys have probably, oh, 10x more musical chops than the people in Dream Theater and yet while the latter and their ilk bore me to absolute tears with their techno-weenie pablum, I could play “Avanti!” every day. The difference? MIRIODOR not only can play, they haven’t forgotten that ‘dey got rhythm! Oh Canada!

EVANSCAPPS – “Last Time” CD ’09 (Rock Ridge, US) – Here’s one for you. What looks like it should sound like Rush, has a pedigree that implies a “Free Bird” clone could be present, yet sounds like a heavier Three Doors Down crossed with RATM? Give up yet? The answer is “Last Time,” the new disc featuring Bobby Capps (38 Special – vocals, keys) & Ean Evans (Lynyrd Skynyrd – guitar, bass). Sure, the cover may appear to be a lost alternative for “Signals” and my description might sound a bit ungainly but there’s also a further irony that makes this a bittersweet affair. See, not long before it’s release, Ean Evans sadly died of cancer, so aside from the pure loss for his family and friends, “Last Time” will stand as EVANSCAPPS’ lone output and legacy. Fortunately, it’s a good one. I always kinda liked Three Doors Down’s songs but had a problem with their light-weight feel and lack of good guitar work. One of EVANSCAPPS’ strong suits is taking those same kinds of catchy riffs and melodies, tuning down, jacking up the power and having Ean Evans lash some snarling leads to the proceedings. Moreover, Bobby Capps’ vocals retain their Southern feel through the bulk of the album except when he lays on the treatment and comes off like a Dixie Zack De La Rocha.. While that sounds bizarre, it actually works because it adds some crank-it-up aggression and it’s not crammed into every song just for the sake of it. “Last Time” may, unfortunately, be an apt title for this disc but that won’t stop it from spinning at The Realm for awhile. Southern Comfort

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