ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


MM Circle - 2006 - "Sybille"

(58 min, Unicorn)

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  Tergiversation 8:55
2.  Muvais Cirque 5:07
3.  Aller Simple 15:02
4.  Metamorphose 13:19
5.  La Danse des Cadavres 7:43
6.  Resignation 8:05


Martin Maheux - drums
Eric St-Jean - piano
Frederic Grenier - contrabass 
Ivanoe Joliceur - trumpet 
Martin Gaumond - violin
Sarah Ouellet - viola
Catherine Leseaulnier - violoncello
Jeremie Cloutier - violoncello

Prolusion. I believe Martin Maheux is well known in Prog Rock circles, though perhaps mainly for being drummer for the famous Canadian band Spaced Out. MM CIRCLE is Martin's solo enterprise, in which he realizes himself above all as a songwriter. "Sybille" is the second album by the project, following "Physics of Light" from 2002.

Analysis. The lineup on "Physics of Light" was a more or less traditional Prog Rock configuration, and that album was designed to smooth away the contradictions between Jazz-Fusion and symphonic Art-Rock. Now we meet a little chamber orchestra, an octet, whose principal mission is to unite the paternal genres of said progressive styles (certainly Jazz and Academic Classical music), which may seem to be extremely brave and even hardly practicable. But there is direct evidence of a positive result! After all, having once achieved success in combining symphonic and improvisational harmonies, one might have all chances to consolidate it on a higher level as well. Martin's new music is purely acoustic and is very ambitious and serious. There is nothing that could've been introduced from the outside on the album, and even all the familiar features and textures present are archetypical for the genres that they belong to. So no comparisons will be made in this review and no jazz or classical composers will be named either. Well, the 58-minute "Sybille" includes six instrumental pieces ranging from five to fifteen minutes, all being performed by the entire octet (which virtually comprises of two quartets - the matter's essence to be explained below). This is in every respect highly cohesive musical material, plus whose construction is subjected to the laws of symmetry - so much to my liking. The two taking the polar positions in the track list, Tergiversation and Resignation, form the first pair of kindred compositions, the seeming discordance between their very meaningful titles becoming more and more explicable with each successive listen to the entire album. Each contains one episode of pure Classical music performed by the violin quartet and a few swingy Jazz-Fusion ones executed by the quartet of drums, contrabass, piano and trumpet, in which the rhythmic foundations are created not only by Martin's drumming, but also by the syncopation of Frederic Grenier's contrabass playing. So as to the core of each of these, this is a really unique, highly cohesive combination of both the idioms provided by the entire octet. Best of all however, the latter approach is evinced on the longer two compositions, Aller Simple and Metamorphose, partly because the sound of the strings is both much more distinct and volumetric here. There are sections with large-scaled symphonic palettes and those with rapid improvisational jams as well, but the greater part of each is a direct synthesis of Jazz and Classical music. The first conventional quartet sets the uneven rhythm, pianist Eric St-Jean (Martin's partner in Spaced Out) doing something inconceivable with the note row, and the violins add the whole gamut of dramatic passages over and over again, plowing up the field of reality again and tuning it in a new way. In the emotional spectrum drama predominates, especially often in the string parts, and although the music is highly complex, a stable hypnotic smell reigns almost everywhere. I am not certain whether it is necessary to mention that the finale of Aller Simple is a drum solo, but well, I see I've done this already:-). That being said, the two centerpieces are graced by the other two brilliant compositions, Muvais Cirque and La Danse des Cadavres, both featuring only stringed instruments. These are fully-fledged works of Academic Classical music, no matter that the latter has a deterrent title worthy of a Death Metal band. They're like an excellent vintage vine, bringing a whole bouquet of special feelings to anybody who tastes it. I am almost certain that both have been played from scores.

Conclusion. Almost four years separate this album from its predecessor, but anyone who hears it will have no doubts that Martin's efforts in creating "Sybille" weren't wasted (an understatement). He has carried out a really huge work, striking for its grandiosity. Each of the compositions here marks a very important part of his development as a songwriter. I don't know whether Martin has reached his creative peak with "Sybille" or not. Hopefully he hasn't, though at least at the moment I can't imagine anything better than what he's come out with this time around. If you feel you are prepared for such music, try not to miss this CD on any account.

VM: June 23, 2006

Related Links:

Unicorn Records
Spaced Out


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