Sunday, November 4, 2012

Leviathan by Michael Bernier

Leviathan (or leviathan. if you go by the cover) is the first solo album from Stick Men alum Michael Bernier. And by solo I mean solo because he wrote and performed most all the tunes plus did the album artwork. Not to the contrary, four guests appear on the album including Pat Mastelotto (drums), Kandy Harris (vocals) -based on her blog I assume she's Bernier's wife- , Caryn Fitzgibbon (violin) and Mike Schirmer (piano and bass clarinet).

The album consists of 10 songs, all within the 4-5 minute range: leviathan, sunrise, parasite, burbur, the old ways, lumberslush, circus elephant, morning, G.D.D., My Sorrow.

The title track starts off the album with a rockin' performance on the Chapman Stick backed up by Mastelotto's straight-ahead drum work.  sunrise, as you might expect, is a slowly building, almost ambient piece of layered guitar and bass that slowly builds in a soft crescendo. parasite begins where sunrise left off but quickly changes into an up tempo interplay of stick, guitar, and bass.

burbur begins ominously with piano and violin until the drums and a screeching guitar join in. On the old ways Bernier takes on vocal duties and isn't bad. (I say that because his Chapman Stick compatriot Tony Levin sometimes leaves me wanting when it comes to singing.)  

lumberslush begins with another ambient-like preamble and then transitions into a mid-tempo guitar piece that slushes along but ends abruptly. circus elephant begins with yet another trademark quiet bit and then almost picks up where lumberslush left off except with a bit more tempo and crunchier guitar work. morning then takes over with some great finger work on the stick paired with soaring guitar on the top. For me, these three tracks comprise the heart of the album.

I have no idea what G.D.D. stands for nor do I know why it and My Sorrow are the only two tracks with capital letters in their name. My Sorrow is a nice closer as it brings back with the vocals as a duet with Kandy Harris (presumably) and an almost pop sound. I'd choose this track as the single to release from this album.

Bernier's Leviathan is a technically strong and thoroughly enjoyable album. My only nit to pick is that as a whole it lacks a cohesion and is more like a sampler of good bits.

Leviathan is available via digital download from and Bandcamp. You can hear clips from the songs at both sites. Bernier has a blog but it hasn't been updated in about a year.

Note: Reports indicate that Bernier is suffering from a serious medical issue regarding a seizure-causing mass on his brain. Spending $10 on his album would help his family with the medical bills.

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