Artist: Louis de Mieulle | Album: Sid€show 2 | Genre: Jazz fusion | Year: 2020
From: New York, USA | Label: Dalang Records
For fans of: Return to Forever, Brainticket
Last year, New York-based bassist and composer Louis de Mieulle released Side$how, an instrumental, improvisation consisting of himself, a drummer, and two keyboardists. That album was one of my most pleasant surprises of 2019, given my usual leeriness about instrumental records. He deftly blended a jazzy backbone with proggy flourishes and touches of krautrock, zeuhl, and even electronic music.
On Sid€show 2, de Mieulle follows the same general template. Himself, a drummer, and two keyboardists improvise over a preconceived structure, employing the musical vocabulary of both jazz and progressive rock. Despite the similarities in how these two albums were composed and recorded, they have vastly different characters. Side$how had a bright, sunny atmosphere, but Sid€show 2 has a colder feel to it.
The opening “Dwarf Elephant” demonstrates this atmospheric shift. It’s a slow-moving piece full of diminished chords, and the lead synth line has a haunting quality to it. The spare composition of “The Two-Headed Kid Variations, Pt. 1” continues this trend. The individual instruments seem to be working around one another, rather than together. This observation isn’t a complaint, though, as that approach is effective at enhancing the mood.
“Giant Fly (aka Mes Choux Gras aka Metastasis)” blends the jitteriness of Side$how with the icy tones established on this record. Especially of note here is de Mieulle’s bass tone. It’s a crunchy, biting tone that reminds me a lot of Geddy Lee, and this tonal aggression fits the darker mood of Sid€show 2.
Returning to earlier themes, “The Two-Headed Kid Variations, Pt. 2” establishes a spacier atmosphere with watery synthesizers and massive amounts of reverb. However, this is one of the rare points on the album where the slow pace and sparse instrumentation are a detriment. This song winds up dragging on for several minutes too long.
The 12-minute “Dwarf Elephant/Bed of Snails” is my favorite song on the album. Its first half utilizes rich instrumentation, and I would once again make sonic comparisons to Rush, not only in the bass tone but also in the synthesizer selection. The composition itself is incredibly un-Rush-like in its jazz backbone and improvisation, but a similar sound palette is used. The song’s second half revisits some themes from Side$how and adapts them to fit this album’s overall feel.
“Revenge of the Giant Fly” is a disorienting piece, featuring a fractured bassline and reversed percussion amid the usual odd synth chords. This piece is followed by part three of “The Two-Headed Kid Variations”. By this point on the record, I’d gotten somewhat exhausted by his revisitations of this idea. Any one of these three variations would have been fine as a standalone piece, and this third part is my favorite of the three, in isolation. However, this theme isn’t interesting enough to warrant nearly twenty minutes of music.
“Son of Giant Fly” is another dark piece that features an especially aggressive, jumpy bassline, and many of the start-stop instrumental flourishes remind of acts like Yes or Dream Theater. The closing “Two-Headed Kid Theme” features some of the lushest textures on the album, though it does feel somewhat out of place as the album’s closer.
Sid€show 2 continues in the same vein as its predecessor, with some notable changes. This record feels starker and colder than last year’s Side$how. I like the continuity between these two albums. However, the sparseness of Sid€show 2 works against it at points, leading to moments which feel unnecessarily drawn out. Despite these shortcomings, I enjoy this record and would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy jazzy, instrumental rock.