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CD Review: Michael Bernier 

Leviathan, 2011, New Spectrum Records

click to enlarge Michael Bernier’s Leviathan.
  • Michael Bernier’s Leviathan.

Some may recognize Saugerties multi-instrumentalist/Chapman Stick player Michael Bernier as a once-upon-a-time member of Stick Men, a group featuring King Crimson Stickist/bassist Tony Levin and drummer Pat Mastelotto (the latter plays on Leviathan’s first track). Even without this knowledge, it would be hard to listen to Leviathan without being enveloped by a large King Crimson influence. This is Bernier’s first official solo album, and, aside from a few other guest appearances, it’s his show as he ambles effortlessly through a mix of tricky, dangerous, ethereal, and mostly vocal-less compositions while manipulating a plethora of instruments that includes guitar, bass, violin, acoustic drums, electronic Roland V-Drums, and, of course, Chapman Stick.

For the uninitiated, the Stick is a polyphonic, electric guitar-like instrument with 8, 10, or 12 strings that can be strummed, bowed, or tapped to create multiple melodic lines. Bernier does all of the above beautifully, and, aside from the balance and tone of some of the drum tracks, Bernier’s skills at composing, performing, and engineering are relatively flawless. The record dutifully mines the quarries of intricacy and exploration that is progressive fusion, occasionally snaking in and out of space prog. “The Old Ways,” one of only two tracks with vocals, is an odyssey that spans a gulf from Jeff Buckley to Bad Brains. Quite a feat.

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  • Saugerties-based Bernier releases his first official solo album.


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