Montreal avant-proggers Miriodor begin the leadoff track of Cobra Fakir, their 2013 Cuneiform album, with arpeggiated acoustic guitar from Bernard Falaise; it's a somewhat surprising turn from the electric guitar master, and "La Roue" is not the only track where he unplugs. Falaise participated in Conventum 2012 -- an André Duchesne-led trio that revisited music from the late-'70s landmark folk-prog outfit -- and it might seem that the younger guitarist brought some Duchesne/Conventum sensibility to Miriodor this time around. Yet although Falaise unplugs here and elsewhere on Cobra Fakir, he never does so for long. After all, this is Miriodor, who use every electronically produced sound in the known and unknown universe in their palette of instrumental voicings, as ably demonstrated throughout Cobra Fakir. However, the precision and crispness of Miriodor's writing and arrangements never make the album seem overloaded or merely clever. Everything has a melodic, thematic, or rhythmic purpose, or at the very least sets a mood, from unsettling and mysterious to circusy and cartoonish (sometimes simultaneously). Absolutely nothing is extraneous. That's the case as the acoustic guitar leads listeners into "La Roue" and the band is soon locked into a circular polyrhythmic groove with deep layers of contrapuntal melodic riffs and snippets from Falaise's guitars and bass, Pascal Globensky's keyboards, and who knows what else, with drummer Rémi Leclerc delivering his own imaginative percussive clank-and-smash accents. The end result is, as the album title suggests, hypnotic.
Deep and detailed arrangements and intermittently steady grooves produce a similar effect elsewhere; the bright and playful "RVB7" sometimes even flirts with danceability in addition to tranceability (no criticism intended). Another tune presenting Miriodor at their most engagingly accessible -- and unadorned -- is "Maringouin," with strummy acoustic and biting electric guitars, Rhodes- and Hammond-ish keyboards, and straightforward drumming preceding the tune's quirkier middle section. Miriodor's previous outing, 2009's Avanti!, found the band stretching out on long tracks in the nine- and ten-minute range, and several Cobra Fakir tracks approach similar lengths, with quintessentially Miriodor-ish results. The nine-minute title track is a multi-sectioned mini-opus, densely constructed with tight changeups, complex scoring, and a sudden bit of eeriness, closing understatedly with piano and accordion sounds and more acoustic guitar. Falaise's acoustic also surfaces in "Tandem," another Avanti!-flavored track with peculiar yet perfect sonic juxtapositions -- a berserk electric guitar moment, a bit of banjo, subtle and spacy keyboard arpeggios -- that never interrupt the tune's thematic continuity. And Miriodor remain supremely inventive on the shorter tracks, which could be instrumental rock singles on another planet: the clockwork pulse and stormy sounds of "Paris-Roubaix"; the buzzing, clicking, deep growl and squelchy fadeout of "Un Cas Sibérien"; the dark drones and earth-shaking synth bursts of the brief Univers Zero-ish closer, "Expérience 7." Credit studio knob twiddlers Falaise and Bernard Grenon for Cobra Fakir's immersiveness, but credit Miriodor -- once again a trio and now recording without guests -- for the ability to do it all.