Montreal's Bernard Falaise is a skilled multi-instrumentalist, composer, improviser, producer, engineer, and mixer, but given his history playing with longstanding avant-proggers Miriodor as well as various sonic explorers of the Ambiances Magnétiques label, he has been most recognized -- and with ample justification -- as a guitarist extraordinaire. However, upon the release of Falaise's own third album, 2012's S'Enfouir, one is less inclined than ever to view his talents mainly through the prism of his guitar work. Not that S'Enfouir is the first album in which Falaise ranges far afield from his principal axe; after recording his debut solo disc, 2000's Do, entirely using multi-tracked and effects-laden guitars, he branched out on 2007 sophomore album Clic, drawing upon various guest artists to contribute reeds, horns, and more, and also adding his own bass, banjo, mandolin, keyboards, percussion, and turntables to the mix (and he played most of these instruments on Miriodor's 2009 album Avanti! as well). S'Enfouir finds him back in truly solo territory, composing, playing, engineering, and mixing everything himself. But in contrast to Do, S'Enfouir isn't centered around his guitars -- instead, Falaise's keyboards often factor most prominently in the 33-minute album's rich array of sounds. Falaise has described S'Enfouir as "a suite of five pieces repeated four times," although the manipulations he employs across these 20 tracks, which range from a minute to three minutes long, are so extensive that repetition is disguised. Instead, in true suite-like fashion, the individual tracks present wide contrasts but with an overall sense of connectedness.
A mysterious mood is set from the very start on "Ruine," as piano and tinkling glockenspiel-like tones ring out into space, met by floating chords of uncertain origin as they decay. After the entry of sounds akin to backwards Mellotron over a brief slow dirge, the piece's opening palette returns, suddenly but smoothly bringing "Ruine" back to its beginnings in less than two minutes. Fragmented much more abruptly, "Frise" is a minute-long kaleidoscope of brief phrases in varied instrumental timbres as if an electric jazz or prog rock band's music were shattered into pieces and reassembled into a sharply defined abstract puzzle. Elsewhere, the two-minute "Foins" drops piano chords and ringing accents over sustained high-pitched tones like stones into a placid pond; the deliberately paced, polyrhythmic "Nuire" builds layers of Miriodor-ish voicings to create -- and soon disrupt -- a magical mood within its three-minute length; and another three-minute track, "Feu," buzzes, clicks, and distorts in your ears over an insistent repeated piano chord and other strange, indecipherable goings-on. Although the album is often dense with activity, the brevity of S'Enfouir's vignettes and the atmospheres Falaise creates often impart a deep ambient music feel -- while nevertheless avoiding shopworn looping approaches and gauzy, comforting background washes of sound. Balancing incisive clarity with muted understatement and submerged roilings, S'Enfouir reveals new facets in the wide-ranging artistry of Bernard Falaise, a multi-instrumentalist and studio whiz whose guitar is but one tool among many.