Woefully undersung quirky prog-rock masters Miriodor are back with their first album since 2013's Cobra Fakir. Thoroughly adventurous, bizarre and confident, Signal 9 proves that these key Canadian members of the "Rock in Opposition" movement, started by UK weirdoes Henry Cow in the late '70s, haven't lost any of their demented edge since debuting in 1986 with Rencontres.
Still pared down to the band's core membership (their early work featured orchestral jazz flourishes of saxophone and flute), Signal 9 feels like a natural extension of their most recent releases, the groove-focused Avanti! and the jazzier, avant-rock-leaning Cobra Fakir. But it's also a surprising leap forward; incorporating more contemporary synth textures into their songs without losing the Zappa-esque chamber music whimsy and cartoonish embellishments so vital to their compositional humour helps give this release a new depth of skull-rattling sound.
The pieces themselves also show a band sounding paradoxically at their most experimental and most focused at the same time. There are more intricate, calculated progressive workouts than ever before, but Bernard Falaise (guitar), Pascal Globensky (keys), Rémi Leclerc (drums) and Nicolas Lessard (bass) also mix experimental ambient movements with some of the most ferocious and expansive riffs of their careers and, for good measure, pepper in janky psychedelic circus music, beautiful post-rock passages and a myriad of other sonic flavours far too numerous to list. Somehow, it all works and feels perfectly natural.
Seriously, this is a band that can pull off a track that starts off sounding like Radiohead scoring Twin Peaks before diving headlong into a stream of avant-prog bombast to equal the likes of genre titans Magma and Jaga Jazzist. While that's certainly not going to be to everyone's tastes, Miriodor are among the very best at what they do. Hopefully, Signal 9 will shine some much-deserved light on the strange corner of the progressive rock world that these ludicrously skilled French Canadians occupy with such casual aplomb. (Cuneiform)