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Mimir, "Mimyriad"

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cover imageFollowing their excellent eponymous debut, this outré music supergroup reconvened after a brief break sans Elke Skelter, but with a pretty exciting new addition in her place (Jim O'Rourke).  Given the pedigree of the players involved, it was no surprise at all that the resultant album was a strange and difficult one, but it managed to subvert my expectations anyway.  Of course, having my expectations subverted when my expectation was "this will be a brilliant album!" is not entirely a good thing.  Mimir clearly had admirable intentions and a formidable line-up for these sessions, but Mimyriad's success is much more evident as an artistic statement and an experiment.

Streamline

Aside from being a musical iconoclast and an extremely skilled producer, Christoph Heemann has also been blessed with an innate genius for complicating his own discography.  The first version of Mimyriad , appearing in 1993, was one single 49-minute track.  Six years later, Heemann decided to re-release it as a limited edition LP.  Given the nature of the medium, it obviously could no longer remain a single uninterrupted track.  Rather than just splitting it in half, however, Christoph re-edited and re-mixed the entire thing, splitting it into six separate pieces and removing about ten minutes of music that had earlier appeared on a compilation called Perpetual State of Oracular Dream as "December…Whatever."  Heemann seems to have been quite pleased with his revision, as the most recent (2007) reissue sticks to the format of the 1999 record.  I wish Mimir was a lucrative enough endeavor to warrant a comprehensive Bitches Brew-style box set of the Mimyriad sessions, as I suspect the raw material took some wildly different forms over the course of the three years it took to assemble the original version.   That probably won't be happening anytime soon though.

Possible permanent state of flux aside, the most bizarre aspect of Mimyriad is that Mimir features two of the world's most compelling and creative guitarists, yet very little recognizable guitar playing (and much of it is fragmented or looped).  That is a rather confounding and somewhat self-defeating move, and I am deeply curious about how it worked out that way.  My suspicion is that Heemann himself gutted the album of as much melodic material as possible when he was assembling and mixing everyone's contributions.  I'd be a fool to assume that I could fully understand Christoph's thought process, but Mimir's original stated intent was to create "textural music" and I think they deliberately took that as far as it could reasonably go here (which meant getting rid of anything that could distract from that).  Despite being understated and spacey and generally sounding nothing at all like Heemann's former collaborator Masami Akita, Mimir actually make some very similar aesthetic decisions in rejecting melody, rhythm, and comfortable repetition.  Merzbow, for his part, fills the resulting void with explosive, ear-melting raw power.  Mimir, either gutsily or foolishly, opted to avoid filling the void at all here.

The other odd thing about this album is that it inhabits a no-man's land that is not quite ambient and not quite structured song.  Instead, it unfolds in a somewhat narrative way like a very uneven hallucination or a film with very obvious set pieces, such as the extremely cool dissonant acoustic guitar interlude in part four, the warped and disorienting organ solo in part five, or the tense bongo, xylophone, and French horn (?) groove in part two.  These "set pieces" are the only elements of Mimyriad that stick in my mind after the album is over, as the rest of the album merely feels like a series of transitions between that handful of "hooks."  The transitions aren't boring or clumsy by any means (mostly Heemann's drones and swells and Edward Ka-Spel's trippy weirdness), but they aren't particularly memorable either.

For the most part, the atmosphere is somewhat dark, sometimes sublime, and occasionally nightmarish, but it is perversely bookended by a very sunny, jangly, krautrock-inspired jam.  The closing appearance has some freaky backwards and warped guitars soloing over it to redeem it somewhat, but it is still very repetitive and relentlessly upbeat.  Also, it feels like Heemann performed a bizarre feat of reverse alchemy here, taking everyone's ideas and twisting and splintering them during editing until they sound like an improvisation.  Whether or not that was a good idea is entirely dependent upon how much any listener craves unpredictability (a commodity that Mimyriad delivers quite effectively).

It is hard to choose which of the two versions is the "definitive" Mimyriad, as the original single-track version makes more sense and some of the best parts were deleted in the remixing/re-editing.  Despite that, the remixed version seems noticeably more coherent and less meandering: there is still a paucity of truly inspired moments, but the wait between them feels much more painless.  On a purely intellectual level, I can appreciate and applaud Mimir's valiant attempt to push the sound into more abstract and epic territory with this album, but the more focused and immediately gratifying albums that sandwich it are far more likely to wind up in my CD player.

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Last Updated on Monday, 12 July 2010 07:36  


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