Reviews from ProgArchives
4/5 Stars Assaf Vestin
The first I've heard of miRthkon was through their self-released their EP The Illusion Of Joy in 2006, which was a pleasant surprise. Here we have the band's first full length, Vehicle, released through the Italian label Alt-r0ck, responsible for other wonderful albums by bands such as Yugen and Rational Diet.
Their brand of avant-rock with jazzy and big-band-like interludes, backed by metal-ish sounding guitars and reed instruments of sorts is a delight to listen to, as they go nuts and move progressively forward in an abstract ?like manner. Listen to Flashbulb of Orgasm and its opening charging assault and you'll get the idea of what's to expect in the next 69 minutes. Listening to this brought to my mind, Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, Miriodor and Invincible Czars, to give you a rough estimate of what to expect.
The mood is upbeat, cheerful, silly and jolly. They seem to have a great time playing. But that is not to mean this is just a bunch of simplistic songs, not at all. Intricacy and complexity are abundant in their music and composition style. Their mixing of their wacky sense of humour, their lively sounding music and the high level of musicianship and song-writing is remarkable in my opinion.
Humour is prevalent in their music and lyrics. Just go over the lovely booklet with its drawings and weird funny text and read the song titles. The artwork and overall layout are superb and fun to go over as you listen to the album.
The album is quite dense, though rich sounding. But one must be prepared for over an hour-long ride in the miRthkon Vehicle (more like a rollercoaster, in fact). It is in fact an exhausting listen, though a fun one. The sax-lead tracks such as Autmoaton and Zhagunk, are heavy due to the guitars backing up with their crunchy riffs and powerful bass and drums playing. Which is why this can be tiresome at some point. It's the playful nature of tracks like Kharms Way that brings in a deserved relief, though it too is infused with the high level dynamics of the heavy sounding guitars. But the clarinets present a surprising "opposition" to the heavy nature of the music and add a frivolous element to the overall sound, a cheeky yet seriously determined attitude. Daddylonglegz is another example of this lighthearted approach, lead by the reed instruments, with an excellent rhythm section performance (which is true for the rest of the album as well, but here it really shines). The heaviness level here is a little lower, though still very much present and making a strong appearance throughout the track.
Some tracks present a quirky ending, that is mostly unrelated to what happened before and those serve as intermediates between songs, instead of these being separate short tracks the people usually refer to as fillers.
The vocals for some reason remind me of Phish's style in songs where they narrate rather than sing. In the tracks with vocals such as Flashbulb of Orgasm and Coven Of Coyotes, it enhances the open and smooth atmosphere of the music and contraficts the heavy guitar sound.
The mingling of heavy and light elements and instruments here is done efficiently and culminates in an appealing overall sound.
In the end, you feel like you've just mounted off a high-speed and intense rollercoaster and need some time to relax, catch your breath and maybe take a calmer ride now.
One will need several well focused listens to this album to be able to absorb it all and make out all the various tracks which can at times assimilate into one messy insane piece.
I would have added some interludes or arranged the tracks differently as to avoid the dense feeling one can get when listening, for example to the three consecutive tracks like Johnny Yen, Bappsciliophuaega and Trishna. It can get too much at that point. Each track is fun to listen to and is in itself a great piece of music, but together they can succumb an army of barbarians with their sheer intensity levels.
They could have put Honey Key Jamoboree in between them for example, with its groovy and lighter atmosphere and sound and cool guitar solo and even pop-sounding section.
Black Fruit also presents a deviation from the theme that lies in the heart of this album with its lesser intensity and somewhat abstract interlude and noisy guitars. Overall, this shows the variety of miRthkon's output.
It might actually be a good idea to listen to this in parts; divide the album in two and focus on each individually and you'll be able to learn to "operate" this Vehicle quickly.
If you enjoy bands and musicians such as Mr. Bungle, Miriodor, Samla Mammas Manna, Invincible Czars, Calle Debauche, Frank Zappa et al. you should give this a listen.
4/5 Stars by The Hemulen
As soon as I start dropping awkward phrases like 'genre-blending', 'jazz-metal', 'tongue-in-cheek', 'avant-prog' and the like, any Mr Bungle fans reading this review would be forgiven for thinking "here we go again". But however fitting those phrases might be, miRthkon's debut album is no mere exercise in ironic genre-splicing.
This is an ambitious, consistent, fully-formed and unique take on avant-prog rooted in the kind of bafflingly complicated rhythms and uneasy harmonies that were pioneered by the likes of Henry Cow. Crunchy guitars growl and stab at chattering reeds under a bedrock of driving drums and bass, all of it twisting and grinding through a 69-minute onslaught of dense melodies that are simultaneously challenging and playful.
There's an artistic vision to this release which extends far beyond the band's well-honed, complex sound. The tracks are peppered with humorous lyrics and monologues which bring a welcome element of wit and surreality to the proceedings, as well as providing subtle clues to the "mythology" which apparently underpins all the music on this album. This conceptual element is bolstered by a beautiful CD booklet which features a separate artwork on every page, each corresponding to a different track on the album. Such attention to detail is a rare and wonderful thing and deserves to be acknowledged.
miRthkon's Vehicle is a compelling, entertaining and rewarding slice of idiosyncratic avant-prog. It's bizarre, uncompromising, funny, and rather brilliant.
Highlights: Flashbulb of Orgasm, Daddylonglegz, The Black Fruit
5/5 Stars by SaltyJon
The fate of the universe is in your hands! GO, NOW!!!!!!!
Of course, I'm talking about going to wherever you generally order music from, because this is an amazing album by an equally amazing band. With Vehicle, miRthkon has provided us with a veritable melting pot of genres, styles, and a very healthy dose of humor. They even have a song about Bananas, which seems to be a pretty popular thing with prog musicians. Seriously though, these guys do the whole "genre-bending" thing better than any other band I've listened to who are supposed masters of it. The music is generally on the heavy side, with a lot of jazz sensibilities thrown in. A big chunk of the album is instrumental, with only a few of the songs having vocals. Those that do are generally really fun, though, and include the previously mentioned song about bananas, "Banana", "Coven of Coyotes", and "Honey Key Jamboree". The vocals are playful and just a bit bizarre, with the last song there really reminding me of something Zappa would do. Sometimes throughout the album we're treated to the funny spoken word parts, almost a sort of narration to help carry along the story of the album. My favorite of these is the miRthkon company motto, which comes later on in the album - really fun wordplay going on here, always makes me chuckle when I hear it. The instrumentals on this song, as mentioned, are often genre-bending of the highest degree. They're just as playful as the vocals a lot of the time, and the titles of them fit well for a lot of the songs...for example, "Zhagunk". The beginning of the song really sounds like that to me, has every time I've listened to it. Amazing all around, really.
This is one of the few times I'll mention the packaging of the album as well. The booklet and even the back insert of the case both help along with the story of the album/band. The back insert has a rather long story in rather tiny writing, plus a hidden message for you to find if you look for it. The booklet has some funny little bits of art/related material to go along with most of the songs, too.
Overall, this is an album that is deserving of my highest praises. I'm not generally a fan of the genre-benders, but these guys do it so well you can't help but love their music. It's a fun, non-stop ride from beginning to end.
5/5 Stars by Mellotron Storm
I think it was SaltyJon's 63rd mention of this album on this site before i finally took the bait. Okay i'm exagerating big time here but i'm thankful "the salty one" did mention this album several times as being one of his favs because i took notice.These guys are from Oakland,Calfornia and they bring Zappa and MIRIODOR to mind because of their zany and freakishly good "stop on a dime" style of play.This is quite heavy at times with the dual guitars,bass,drums and horns all bringing it at once in a very intense way. I had the pleasure of listening to this late Saturday afternoon on a trip up north to get my daughter who was camping. It was sunny and my drive was releaxing but if anyone could here what was blasting away in my vehicle they would be shocked.
The album opens with a funny spoken word piece called "Congratulations!" about the benifits of buying a Mirthkon vehicle. "Flashbulb Of Orgasm" is fantastic with the odd- metered drumming and dissonant horns. "Banana" opens with vocals before the music gets intense, then it settles back as the contrasts continue. Some heavy guitar after 2 minutes and it ends with experimental sounds. "Automation" is such a good tune. Nice bass early as the song seems to take it's time. Some intensity 2 minutes in and 3 1/2 minutes in before a calm ends it. "Zhagunk" has some powerful outbursts throughout. Heavy duty before after 3 minutes. Cat sounds(yes cat sounds) end it along with a crashing noise. "Kharms Way" has lots of tempo shifts in it. Incredible sound 2 1/2 minutes in then it turns dark before kicking back in. A calm with piano and spoken words 6 minutes in.
"Daddylonglegz" is a catchy tune. Check out the bass 1 1/2 minutes in and the horns. Amazing track ! Crickets end it and coyote howls as it blends into "Coven Of Coyotes".This is intricate and powerful.Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in. Funny stuff. Coyotes are back late followed by experimental sounds. "Johnny Yen" hits the ground running but it's the contrasts that impress me the most. "Bappsciliophauega" is once again an incredible display of talent. Powerful with horns which get dissonant after 3 minutes with percussion. Funny spoken words end it. "Trishna" is intense and powerful. Enough said. Okay there is a calm with flute at one point. Enough said again. "Honey Key Jamboree" is very Zappa-like with vocals. Some killer guitar too that goes on and on. Nice. "The Black Fruit" is kind of dark and eerie as most black fruits tend to be. It kicks into gear before settling again.The spoken words with piano are hilarious. "Camelopardalis" has a nice heavy sound before a minute. Horns then lead.The tempo continues to shift and we get some organ in this one too. Love the dissonance late.
Just a brilliant album in every way.
5/5 Stars by TheGazzardian
Congratulations! With your purchase of a miRthkon Vehicle, you have joined the ranks of an elite class of enlightened consumer!
When a band starts their debut album such self-applauding dialogue, even cleverly masked as the faceless voice of a company called miRthkon congratulating you on the purchase of one of their products (a vehicle), that band better deliver! But by the time the first track has finished playing, slowly descending from the typical corporate jargon to cleverly implying that the miRthkon Vehicle is best enjoyed as the details slowly reveal themselves to you, and ultimately putting the fate of the universe (re: the band) in the listeners hands, they have proven their worth as entertainers. At the same time, they slowly build the intensity of the song, so that by the time that Flashbulb of Orgasm (whatever that means) explodes onto the scene, the listeners is (somewhat) prepared. As prepared as one could be the first that this jammy/ jazzy/ heavy/ chugging track bursts out through their speakers, anyways.
Again and again throughout the album, miRthkon impresses. Armed with very agressive reeds coming from Carolyn Walter, Jamison Smeltz as well as a small army of guests, the band rarely has to rely on the guitars to create a heavy sound, although the guitars often come through loud and crunchy. At the same time, the playfulness of the music is never absent, and the bands sense of humour arises again and again. Pretty much any dialogue on this album is guaranteed to elicit laughter, be they the ridiculous lyrics to Banana (he's got a banana, it looks like a gun, the other bananas are on the run), the amusing lyrics to Honey Key Jamboree (Here's a story about some bees that like to boogie), or the return of the corporate vocals at the end of The Black Fruit with perhaps the most cleverly biting attack on corporations I've heard in a while (A company that tells it's customers what it's customers tell the company it's customers want to hear).
All this is part of a massive concept that the music only hints at; the most direct insight being in the track, a Coven of Coyotes, which demonstrates the meeting of La Veldreaux and Kleighroi, two of the characters in the labyrinthine plot the band has devised. Coven of Coyotes also features back and forth dialogue more typical of a musical than of a rock and roll concept album, and I enjoy it immensely, especially given that the dialogue here is no less entertaining than anything else throughout the album.
Meanwhile, the music changes gear at the drop of a note, features some highly complex interactions between the instruments, and without getting so lost in showing off that there isn't something interesting for the user to grasp on to. (In fact, there are often various different aspects of the music that the listener could listen to an enjoy). It almost feels as if this is not miRthkon's debut; this feels more like their Close to the Edge than their Yes. A little research on the bands website reveals that this is partially true; music for this album has existed in various stages for ten years (looking at their early releases, miRthkon and Ruth-Bikula Phaze, one can see early versions of tracks such as Daddylonglegz and Coven of Coyotes dating as far back as '99) and this album was being recorded for about four years. So although this may be the bands first full album release, these ideas have existed and, presumably, been worked upon for ten years now.
And at the end of it all, it is we, the listener, who get to enjoy this medley of complex, hilarious, and entertaining music, all at the reasonable price of one disc. It can only lead us to hope two things: that it won't be ten years until the next album, and that miRthkon will be able to create something at least half as good as this was. If so, I know they'll have a lot of happy listeners.
Side note: The album art for this album is also superb, from an amusing page that includes the "history" of the letter R, to the detailed story hidden behind the disc in the jewel case (have a magnifying glass ready, that text is tiny but well worth the time to read!), the packaging has received as much love as the music contained within.
4/5 stars by Todd
I have to add my endorsement of this amazing album. Please read the above three reviews, and they reflect my thoughts and feelings precisely. I listen to a lot of new progressive rock-- usually at least a new album every day--and most of them promptly get lost in the depths of my Zune, rarely to resurface. This is an exception--just a phenomenal album, with so many twists and turns and stops and starts, you just never know where the album is going next. And it's such a pleasure to discover where they're taking you. So just purchase the miRthkon Vehicle, and enjoy the crazy ride!
3/5 stars by Bruford Freak
Definitely a perfect match for the AltrOck posse, the thicker, jazzier side of Avant/RIO. I hear lots of ZAPPA and 70s avant jazz (BILL LASWELL/MATERIAL, Pangaea Records, DON PULLEN, KIP HANRAHAN, ARTO LINDSAY, ASTOR PIAZZOLLA), JOHN ZORN, BILL FRISELL, FRED FRITH, UNIVERS ZERO, and even a little KING CRIMSON ("Trishna") and STEELY DAN! ("Honey Key Jamboree"). Intricate, sometimes dense, amusing and entertaining avant jazz, this is a music that definitely stands in opposition to rock and roll and mainstream radio "pop" music. If and when you're in the right mood, this is fun music--great for the thinking listener. This will not, I'm sure, be everybody's cup of tea, but, if you pick up a guitar, kazoo or percussion instrument and try to play along I guarantee you'll not only have fun but you'll probably sound good! (Which makes me wonder how well the band does in replicating its studio music on stage.) 3.5 stars: skilled performances and daring compositions that will, I fear, not appeal to many outside of the Avant/RIO crowd. If you seek melody, you should probably avoid this record. If skilled, but unusual musical structures intrigue you, this would be worth checking out.
4/5 stars by zravkapt
The first full-length album from this outfit from Oakland, California. An impressive debut too. The music MiRthkon plays is a combination of Zappaesque jazz-rock and classical-rock mixed with modern chamber rock and avant-metal. If you can imagine a clashing of Zappa, Mr. Bungle and Univers Zero then you get an idea of what this album sounds like. These guys are on the more humourous end of avant-prog while still having lots of chops and complexity. This might appeal to fans of bands such as Miriodor and Yugen. The instrumentation includes the usual guitars, drums, keyboards along with a host of wind instruments including sax and piccolo.
The album begins with a parody of a car commercial called "Congratulations." This is excellently done and convincing until the music gets more Zappaesque and dramatic while the narrator starts talking like it's the end of the world. "Flashbulb Of Orgasm" is great jazzy avant-metal (or is that metallic avant-jazz?). "Banana" has vocals and is a bouncy little ditty for the most part. Not a highlight but it stands out. "Kharms Way" goes into a terrific groove about halfway after a few minutes of Zappaesque avant-rock. Some beautiful subdued piano playing at the end as someone does their best Tom Brokaw impression along with some symphonic synths. "Daddylonglegz" has interesting counterpoint between the wind instruments. Some Zappa-meets-Zeuhl vocals at one point. The bass really stands out in this track.
"Coven Of Coyotes" at least initially sounds like early (1980's) Red Hot Chili Peppers, which is interesting as that band had a song called "True Men Don't Kill Coyotes" on their first album. Then it gets a lot jazzier with some call-and-response vocals. Like "Banana" this is not a highlight but it stands out. Sped-up Zappa style avant-rock to end it. "Johnny Yen" is more manic and unpredictable in a Naked City fashion. Mellows out more in the middle. A melody gets repeated over and over with some almost random drumming. "Bappsciliophuaega" (say that five times fast!) starts out as avant-funk-rock then evolves into avant-jazz-metal. At the end you hear a sample from a 1980s Eddie Murphy movie where he talks about putting a banana in a tailpipe. I can't remember what movie that is, I think it's either Beverly Hills Cop or 48 Hours.
"Trishna" is one of the more interesting and varied songs. Lots going on here and not just avant-jazz-metal (although there is lots of that too). One part has some crazy stereo panning. "Honey Key Jamboree" is in the vein of "Banana" and "Coven." Upbeat vocal song that sounds very different from the instrumentals. Featuring some Zappa style harmony backup vocals and occasional disco beats. Also featuring a *very* Zappa sounding guitar solo. "The Black Fruit" is dark and moody chamber prog similar to Univers Zero/Present. You hear a fire alarm go off at one point which adds to the music. After the alarm the track goes into dissonant avant-rock/noise-rock territory. Probably the most difficult and challenging part of the album.
Near the end you hear the lovely New Age music of the opening mock car ad again. The narrator here makes some deadpan sarcastic comments. The last and longest song "Camelopardalis" changes frequently and holds your attention throughout. You hear everything from a funeral march to funky bass playing here. Overall this is a great debut effort from this group. I like the sound of the bass and the bass playing in general but think the distorted metal guitar sound is a little over used; would have been better with a wider variety of tones. Just a minor problem though as this is some good stuff. 4 stars.