Parade + Live at NEARfest

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Everyone loves a Parade -- or at least they should love the CD by that name, the sixth Miriodor disc on the Cuneiform label, released as the band celebrated its 25th anniversary. The title is apt, as listeners are likely to feel as if they are indeed sitting in folding chairs at curbside, witnessing a particularly phantasmagorical array of parade floats roll past. The 16 tunes, ranging from less than a minute to nearly seven minutes in length, are often 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, filled with more sonic details than can be grasped in a single listen, with the keyboard voicings alone (vibes, marimba, accordion, harpsichord, grand piano, and Farfisa anyone?) causing the listener's head to spin, yet always used in service of the compositions in which they appear. Parade finds the core quartet of guitarist Bernard Falaise, keyboardist Pascal Globensky, drummer/electronician Rémi Leclerc, and bassist/keyboardist Nicolas Masino supplemented, as they were on 2001's Mekano, by saxophonist Marie-Chantal Leclair and violinist Marie-Soleil Bélanger on a number of tracks, adding additional voicings, melodies, and countermelodies to the often intricate arrangements. Miriodor jumps out of the gate with "Pyramide" and "Scarabee," two concise, tight, and quirky tunes, before throwing curve balls at the listener, such as the truly cinematic, multi-sectioned "Polar" that sweeps into view later in this particular Parade. However, the first indication of the CD's true depth and range arrives with "Uppsala," a tune that begins in upbeat fashion as keyboards, guitar, and soprano sax toss brief lines back and forth in counterpoint and the bass and drums lead the tune into an episode of what might be called Miriodor funk. But then "Uppsala" abruptly shifts into a ghostly passage with a sustained keyboard chord underpinning the moody bassoon of guest musician Lise Millet, recalling the work of Michel Berckmans or Sven Aarflot with Lars Hollmer. The track then explodes into a hard-driving climax that might cause Adrian Belew to sign up for some guitar classes from Falaise, were the Montreal axeman looking for a way to earn some extra cash on the side. Perhaps the biggest surprise of "Uppsala," however, is that Hollmer doesn't play on it, since the tune clearly references the Swedish composer/keyboardist -- who does appear on three subsequent tracks, having recorded his contributions at the Chickenhouse near, of course, Uppsala. The tracks featuring Hollmer are noteworthy, particularly "Bonsai Givre," a multi-sectioned number that flows organically into dreamy, spacy interludes with Hollmer's accordion and vocal expertly woven into the group's overall sound, and the concluding "Foret Dense," encompassing drama, mystery, darkness, and light while ending the CD on a chamberesque note. Parade is packaged as part of a two-CD set including a bonus disc featuring the entire Miriodor set from the 2002 NEARfest in Trenton, NJ. The sextet performs tracks mainly from Mekano and Jongleries Élastiques in spirited fashion, effectively captured by mixage wizards Pierre Girard and Bob Drake. The biggest kick might be hearing the band win over the crowd as the set progresses -- after the crescendos of "Mme X" wind down into solitary harpsichord-ish ostinatos, the 1,800-plus audience seems to realize what a phenomenal performance it is witnessing, and erupts with thunderous applause. Perhaps the audience realized that it had better cheer at that point, because even though Miriodor appeared early on the first day of the fest, it would be hard to imagine any of the following groups being anything other than a letdown. Kudos to the festival organizers for giving Miriodor a spectacular live forum, richly deserved by one of the finest bands ever to emerge from the Quebec musique actuelle scene.

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