The prog world is buzzing with excitement about the forthcoming DVD release by miRthkon; Oakland, CA based amplified chamber ensemble masquerading as a rock band. This illusion is well maintained by the fact that from time to time they do indeed rock. Maintaining a passionate aesthetic stance that they are (quite happily) 'beneath everything', their music – whether evoking the direct or indirect influence of progressive rock, contemporary classical abstraction, avant-garde jazz, catchy hook-laden pop, or thrash metal – is held to a simple but firm standard: Does it sound good? miRthkon's forthcoming live DVD titled (Format) is a testament to the group's innovative approach to live performance and music in general.
"The DVD was somewhat of an accident," explains band leader and guitarist Wally Scharold. "It was not planned. We had incorporated live and pre-recorded video projection in our shows since mid-2008. These were originally introduced as short interludes between songs to keep the audience engaged during long song breaks due to required technical changes to perform the next song. By the time we played CalProg in October 2010, our multimedia approach was at its most ambitious, including nearly 30 of these videos. It was very well rehearsed and we performed it beautifully, all captured in a free 32-track recording, provided by the festival. I had filmed our set from a single angle in the hall's light booth for archival purposes, which was hardly enough to justify a legit concert film. But after reaching out to the fans, we managed to track down a couple more angles – one very close to the stage – and suddenly we had the raw footage to cut together something. However, the lack of any real planning (and professional videographers) made for less than ideal footage, so we had to get really creative with the editing when we just didn’t have the shot we wanted. One and 1/2 years later, it's finally done". Unlike a standard concert film, (Format) integrates interviews, surrealistic documentary footage, and an underlying plot pointing to a vast conspiracy!
miRthkon's diverse musical influences range from Classical: Webern, Stravinsky, Dutilleux, Varese, Feldman, Gerhard. Metal: late 80s/early 90s thrash, Meshuggah, Fantomas. Avant-Rock: Mr. Bungle, Albert Marcoeur, Thinking Plague, Tipographica, Magma. Jazz: Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Giuffre, Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, Hermeto Pascoal, Itibere Orquestra Familia, Ben Monder, Raymond Scott. Pop/Rock: ZZ Top, Michael Jackson, Ben Folds. "Zappa is the primary influence, on multiple levels: the approach to the music is similar how the rock band format is run much more like a chamber ensemble," says Wally. "Players need fluency in virtually all modes of performance practice in which their instrument is or has been involved including contemporary classical, big band to avant/free jazz, metal, prog, funk, etc. Zappa's attitude/philosophy/aesthetic/humor is also a huge influence. In a way, you could say we've hopped on to a similar thread of "Conceptual Continuity". We employ his 'journalistic' approach of incorporating experiences from our own life/environment into the content of our work. Often to an extreme, though most of that goes over peoples' heads".
Wally Scharold – guitars, vocals, composition, sound design, conceptual design, text, video, producer
Travis Andrews – guitars
Matt Lebofsky – bass guitar, vocals
Carolyn Walter – piccolo, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Jamison Smeltz – alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, vocals
Matt Guggemos – drums and percussion
Jarred McAdams – video, text, conceptual collaborator
Here's what the press has said about miRthkon:
“A big-sounding, in-your-face outfit, adopting the familiar format of RIO/Avant ensembles (a core plus a number of guests and collaborators), they have immediately established themselves as a name to watch with one of the most impressive debut albums of the past two decades (and possibly longer).” - Raffaella Berry, Progressor.net
“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. 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.” - Assaf Vestin, Sonic Frontiers
“It’s prog rock. But there’s so much more here that you won’t find in typical prog circles: a rollicking sense of humor, a heavy dose of real jazz (garbled, knotted free jazz, NOT the occasional major-7th chord that rock reviewers call “jazz”), and amusing spoken-word segments like futuristic (yet old-world) radio announcements.” - Forrest Bryant, Memory Select
“The variations within the compositions are so many that trying to describe each track would make this article more like a book than a review. The music throughout is intense, sometimes dark and heavy, sometimes playful but always adventurous.” - Richard Barnes, Sea of Tranquility
“For those in the know, miRthkon means ‘the illusion of joy” – and for those in the know, this is a misnomer, for there is no illusion. This was pure joy.” - Richard Warp, Berkeley Music Examiner
In support of their new DVD release, miRthkon will tour thee US in August. Joining the band at various stops will be MoeTar, Lovely Little Ladies (Cheer Accident side project), District 97, Thinking Plague, Kayo Dot, and TBD.
Release date - July 3, 2012. To pre-order miRthkon (Format) DVD click here.
miRthkon Tour Dates:
8/14 Philly (Sellersville)
8/19 Kansas City
8/20 St. Louis/TBD
8/23 Santa Fe
8/25 San Diego