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(41 min, 'Vialka')
TRACK LIST: 1. Village Mentality-2 7:00 2. Everywhere & Nowhere 7:39 3. Umfall 5:09 4. Shitty Monkeys 1:37 5. Die Lorelei 5:25 6. Trois ou Quatre Bieres 6:25 7. Only the Wrong Survive 4:16 8. Kang Ding Town 3:25 LINEUP: Marylise Frecheville - drums; vocals Eric Boros - baritone guitar; vocals With: Bob Drake - engineering
Prolusion. VIALKA is a duo consisting of Canadian guitarist Eric Boros and French drummer Marylise Frecheville, who (quoting them) "have been bringing their gypsy turbo-folk-punk music and lifestyle to all corners of the world for five years". This tiny commune has four official releases to date, namely "Tonight I Show You F**k", "Republic of the Bored & Boring", "Curiosities of Popular Customs" and "Everywhere & Nowhere", the latter being a DVD.
Analysis. "Curiosities of Popular Customs" depicts its makers as quite venturesome experimentalists. The creation is equidistant from Progressive Rock and Heavy Metal, and yet is abundant in features of both of the genres. Village Mentality-2, Die Lorelei and Only the Wrong Survive, all are complex, mostly intense and dynamic music where the raw power of extreme Metal-related forms lives in harmony with the bewitching angularity of RIO-like constructions, the constantly shifting themes certainly adjoining the endless use of intricate odd meters. I am far from thinking of calling into question the originality of Vialka's music, but nevertheless some names come to my mind when I listen to these three, as well as some of the other tracks. If you can imagine something halfway between Voivod and Absolute Zero, you will get a sure idea of what most of the Curiosities are about, at least on the general musical plane. The compositional and performance capabilities of guitarist Eric Boros are amazing, but his guitar technique isn't something we've never heard before. So it's mainly Eric's partner, Marylise Frecheville, who provides the album with a pronounced sense of freshness and uniqueness. She is definitely the most skilful female drummer I've ever met in my life, besides which she is a genuine chameleon vocalist, with ease taking high, low (at times nearly brutal) and intermediate pitches, though it would be fair to note that much of her singing is quite aggressive in nature, but only in accord with the essence of the music as such. Eric often joins Marylise's singing on Umfall, Everywhere & Nowhere and Trois ou Quatre Bieres. These have common ground with the described songs, but each is also abundant in tunes widespread among the nations of the Balkan Peninsula and thus reveals distinct elements of gypsy and oriental music. (Nothing supernatural in what I've put in the previous sentence, and those well familiar with the movies by cult director Emir Kusturica will certainly agree). Shitty Monkeys and Kang Ding Town are a quite different story, rather sharply contrasting with the other songs. Both come without drums and are notable for Marylise's theatric, at times clearly operatic singing, developing to the accompaniment of guitar solos, which in turn are flavored with what in a general sense can be viewed as West European folk music.
Conclusion. Each of the eight tracks on "Curiosities of Popular Customs" is excellent compositionally and is very well executed, but somewhat lacks density of sound in its overall production. The peculiarities of baritone guitar allow its possessor to reproduce several different sounds, those of bass included, but not simultaneously. I appreciate the duo's desire to keep the spirit of their live performances during their studio sessions too, but nonetheless I'd been more enthusiastic about the album had it featured a guest bass player or at least overdubbed bass parts. Recommended with said reservations.
VM: April 8, 2006
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