Vera, the fourth album from the Toronto-based trio collective Myriad3, is a fascinating example of how fastidious design principles and shrewdly executed extemporization can truly complement and even counterpoise one another. There's serious attention to detail in each of these ten pieces, but the music benefits greatly from its embrace of uncertainties and creative expression(s).
Opening with pianist Chris Donnelly's "Pluie Lyonnaise," Myriad3 immediately taps into a minimalist stream with a maximalist mindset. Characterized by hypnotic tides with a developmental outlook, this number finds the trio evoking thoughts of a rainy performance in Lyon. Drummer (and multi-reedist) Ernesto Cervini's "Tamboa" follows. The song draws its opening lines, and general inspiration, from a small, marimba-like instrument that Cervini received as a Christmas gift. That steadily flowing pattern evolves into a disorienting pointillist quilt that eventually unravels and enters a rocking zone before coming to an abrupt halt, inviting bassist Dan Fortin to the fore in a gentler space. If that sounds like a lot for one song, it is...and it isn't.
That venturesome attitude displayed early on proves to be a virtue as the album moves forward. Myriad3 delights in blending entrancing elements with mooring grooves on "Ward Lock," understatement has a strong influence on the solid-yet-malleable "Diamonds," a performance of Igor Stravinsky's zany "Piano-Rag-Music" leaves no doubt as to the band's brilliance through interpretation, and Fortin's "Fortress" uses simple ingredients to form a coolly grooving and compelling whole.
There's a clear continuity of thought across Vera, yet these musicians manage not to repeat themselves. Those first six tracks make that point clearly enough, and the final stretch of the album magnifies it: the engrossing "DNA" plays as a skulking and fragmented miniature, cracked yet somehow held together; "Couche Tard" deals in multiple personalities of the throbbing, placid, and mysterious sort(s); "Meme Art" closes the gap between wistful notions and hopeful thoughts, with hints of other mood colors and rhythmic hiccups cast onto its canvas; and "Total" proves to be pleasantly soporific in its movements. Nothing is a given and everything is different each time Myriad3 gets moving, but these three men clearly have no doubts about where they're going together.