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VIALKA : Succès Planétaire International. (2009) CD


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Hailing from deepest France, via everywhere and nowhere, Vialka are a devilishly high-spirited nomadic duo whose frontier-touring has taken them to all corners of the globe on a seemingly permanent world tour since their formation in 2002. Deriving their influences from traditional and modern underground music from around the globe Marylise Frecheville (percussion & voice ) and Eric Boros (baritone-guitar & voice) create music that skips joyfully across borders, channelling desert blues, Chinese folk songs, scatter rock and European gypsy song dynamics. A whirlwind dervish energy, that combines endless gypsy punk folk rock tales, hard hitting poly-rhythms, yelps and howls into one feverishly danceable and intoxicating brew. Like 'A Hawk And A Hacksaw' or 'The Ex' their openness to new sounds and cultures makes you feel alive.

The album's eight new tracks feature a frenetic interaction between Marylise's syncopated drumming and singing and Eric's orchestral guitar playing, delivered with ecstatic energy, humour, lust for life, and a sophisticated musical language and subliminal connection all their own. It also includes a charming rendition of the old German folk song 'Hole in the Bucket', their take on a traditional Shona mbira piece as well as collaborations with Francois Marcziniak and Cyrielle Faure (tuba and flute), Crank Sturgeon (sonic gesticulations), Andrew Dymond (mbira), and Xiao He (vocals and Hunan pipa). Recorded by Bob Drake at Studio Midi-Pyrnes in December 2008 and January 2009, and delightfully packaged in cardboard gatefold slips adorned with cover art by Rachel Lowther and photos by Wenxi Xiong.



01 Premiers Pas 6:38
02 100% Hello 3:48
03 One For The Road 4:11
04 Good Riddance 3:05
05 Do What Now? 2:55
06 Dutar 3:44
07 Always Against 4:24
08 Hole In The Bucket 2:53


"Guy is wearing a Peeesseye t-shirt on the inside-front cover of this rather sumptuously packaged offering from Dual Plover which is as good a sign as any of impending originality and stimulation. In fact it's a very honest, open and affectionate recording which manages to tease, frustrate, fortify and amuse all whilst being not in the least bit facetious or arrogantly ironic. Marylise Frecheville and Eric Boros' play is lovely, a constant bickering of guitars and percussion that raises musical ideas, questions and quandaries with avidity and spleen. Boros' unaffected notes are the spidery, stepwise grid underneath which Frecheville's percussion swerves and waltzes, her voice shooting off in epic tantrum or chuckling spree as the fancy takes her. The sheer joy of composition is happily at the forefront of all these pieces, "100% Hello" and "One for the Road" both like watching a game of Mousetrap in fast-forward and just as colourful. You can't help but know that a cup of tea at the merch stand with these people would be very, very nice.

An arrangement of a traditional Shona mbira piece is expertly done, referencing the mbira's cyclical patterns, syncopation, interlocking motion and repetition as key sites of exploration for both players' instrumentation, whereas tracks like "Dutar" ask you to keep track of what is being repeated yourself, to mentally arrange these non-stop offerings of disparate riff and rhythm as they're constantly juggled back and forth not in mimicry of song but in celebration of its fecund and elastic components. A wonderfully intimate rendition of "Hole in the Bucket" rounds off the record, a perfect summation of the cooperative, pragmatic and slightly mad tendencies of the music previous and testament again to the sincerity of approach that makes the rest of the album so enjoyable. Despite having some of its mania sapped by the deliciously candid production this is well worth investigating." 8/10 -- Joe Luna


"Wow! This time around, the Vialka disc finds itself cozy against a piece of black felt wrapped in gorgeous photography (Wenxi Xiong, you win!) and cool, abstract art. Yup, here they are again - so glad to see somewhat wistful-looking pictures of these globe-conquerors, confident in their new madness... even a new swank logo! It's almost as if they're trying to lull you into a posture of comfort, to be utterly obliterated by the waiting tones on the record.

Premiers Pas opens with some incredible brass... What, a tuba? Gay and lovely... Strange blasts of frothy vocal nonsense... Flute brilliance -- moving from chanteuse to big, russian-style choirs. Oh man, they're at it again - and their musical chops are better than ever.

The new-heavy-heavy rock moments are new (to my recollection) and Boros is sounding better, stronger, faster on the vox - he sounds a bit like Jello Biafra now, which is awesome. The surf-gypsy moments are lovely and confusing... especially with "yahoo!" staidly yelled over top... and then funk! All this with synthesizers buzzing along at the edge of perception as well... Distorted vox clips all over the place... The end of 100% Hello is a glitch destructo clip-art fest which one shouldn't try to decode - just let it do to you what it wants to.

One For The Road starts with a yummy-fuzzy Boros high-life guitar tone and shuffle-a-gogo with Frecheville drumming the bounce to the cosmos. It's hard to say what of this is Pro Tools and overdubbing, but the drums are sounding astoundingly tight. What group would bother with such regulated tightness on such a mad trip? Whether it's editing or immaculate playing, it sure packs a punch.

This duo, being effervescent world traveler magis are clearly operating on a different frequency, but rocking their chops most days and nights has translated into a recording monster-engine. I actually wrote something similar, on reviewing their 2005 release "Curiosities of Popular Customs", and it's hard to believe how much they've further tightened up on this record.

The odd verbal 'shit, i fucked up' and similar are amazing, almost like Easter eggs among the vortex... Here they leave lots of room for solos and shared musical moments and cool little tricks. Good Riddance features minimalist tuned perc and guitar sequence-type arpeggiated motives which circle and develop - this feels distinctly African, but the inspiration might come from anywhere. The only other type of omni-world-music like this I can think of is generated by Dead Can Dance, where any ethnicity becomes 'every' ethnicity or perhaps The Great Ethnicity. The eerie sense of a cosmic Other is threatened by looming presentments of thrash metal and then ends on a major seventh: very weird. Not music for normal folks, to be sure.

Do What Now? starts like a high-life remix (actually based on a traditional Shona mbira piece) and then ends up a pointed, more dangerous rock-out with chanting - incomprehensible and still catchy as hell. Interjected guitar rush-rock-outs are ever present. I think the one word for this record is "illusive".

The bass drum hits in Dutar remind you that what you're listening to is not only really fucking weird and cool, but also exquisitely engineered - the mix, with all its strange smattering of sounds is packed with character and all the parts occupy a nice, funny realm of their own, making up a highly listenable mix of musical gnomes. Technically, this should be impossible music to listen to, but the mix goes a long way to helping the brain make sense of things. It must have been very challenging to mix and master this stuff - kudos to Bob Drake (recording) and whoever did the mastering. It also seems Drake was responsible for the editing; clearly, hands-down, a true genius at the controls. The mixing treatments and edits are so subtle across the board - seemingly impossible for a project of this scope and complexity.

Always Against brings up an interesting point: the listener disappears out of complete avant-garde abstraction for a moment to settle into what appears to be a vivid and powerful mood - quite devoid of the manic, painted blobs of half-jokingness. So the thought is: wow, if Vialka were to sit down to take us through a 'conventional' musical, static-for-four-minutes experience, or a whole record of that... What would happen? Would Vialka, without the miasma, still be Vialka or would Vialka evaporate? With the intensity and the truth of this powerful moment, one realizes 'shit this band is actually exquisite and might be hiding really intense and beautiful songs' - which, of course, is not the point of Vialka. Is exposing this fact the demolishment of the Vialka entity? The very fact that the question is raised is likely proof that Vialka is doing its job. Viva Vialka!

Hole in my Bucket pretty much drives the point home - the true international experience is a world full of crazy hillbillies on fire. Vialka has seen the world - and that's what they've written. Trying to be legit and weirdo at the same time, Frecheville's warbling songbird tones - luscious singing apparently lost and re-found in the 1930's - make you melt. (You've got to want to be a fly on the wall during this married couple's arguments!) Boros as muttering Henry (Henri) is beyond great - if it doesn't make you want to listen to the whole album AGAIN and twice as loud, I'd be very surprised.

With a record like this, you don't highlight 'good songs'... this is one of those records, perhaps like those of Frank Zappa, where you say, 'wait, wait, here comes this part!'... and then mouth sing it and gesticulate to get the point across. My favourite album moments: Premiers Pas @ 2:39 is one of the best screams in recorded history. 100% Hello @ 2:03 ... I count the seconds until this gets sampled by hip-hop funksters. Always Against @ 3:33 is an intense bass-driven rock out with monster fills that progs too and fro. Frecheville's flat coaxing of Henry is fun and mental.

Vialka has presented another incredible ride through an astounding and confusing musical space - it will demand your concentration, and you won't be able to concentrate on anything else once you put it on - by far their best compositions and recording to date. Let's hope dualPLOVER can further disseminate the genius of Vialka to a wider audience than the world-weary tot-toting duo has already done by themselves." - Karl Mohr


"Hailing from France, Vialka tours the world (almost) without rest, spreading its music to both the unaware and the converted worldwide, on a daily basis. Therefore, it is only natural to find that the world has had its imprint on the band as well.

Succès Planétaire International, the band's new album, is virtually a trip to eclectic districts, or more precisely — presents the world as it is reflected through the eyes of Vialka. Different cultural shades are assimilated into the music, which feels more structured than on previous efforts while remaining true to the dazzling, post-rock nature, based on the duo's ecstatic baritone guitar and drums.

The opening "Premiers Pas" feels like a lunatic crusade, and might be considered as the modern answer to the '70s progressive rock epics. Clocking at just over six-and-a-half minutes, this is an impressively structured and performed suite. Opening with a merry introduction comprising joyous cries, tuba and flute, the melody is then repeated as a more menacing theme with turbo guitar and forceful drums. All ingredients blend just before Marylise Frecheville sings lyrically, and then it all turns into malevolent chants to which Frecheville vocalizes spastically (one of the most afflicted and impressive vocal performances you are likely to hear!).

Later, an Arabian flavor is bravely incorporated, suggesting that Vialka is indeed fit to conquer the world. The sonic textures are definitely at peak here, and the tuba and flute, as well as some crystal percussion, add lots of color to the general rumble.

The album continues to strike the listener with surprises throughout, as even though the pieces flow fluently and with reinforced subtlety it is impossible to predict what Vialka has in store for the next second. The derangement of Vialka is also maintained through the "atomic restructuring" of Bob Drake and slightly psychotic "sonic gesticulations" by Crank Sturgeon that appear irregularly and out of the blue, so that even on a capable yet straightforward reading of the comic "Hole in the Bucket" (originally of German origin, so we're told) the listener is constantly reminded of the nonlinear context that perpetually drives the entire, thoroughly gratifying output." (9.5/10) - Avi Shaked


"Vialka are Marylise Frecheville and Eric Boros. They make their base in a farmhouse in central France, but are residents of the world. If there's a better case of musical nomadism than Vialka, I'm yet to hear it: on Succès Planétaire International, anything they pick up is theirs, and anything they put down returns to the flux. It starts with 'Premiers Pas', an eccentric stitching of countless styles - oompah tuba, flowery pipes, xylophone, tangled splatter-drumming, keening vocals from Marylise, funereal folk laments from Eric, and invasive technology courtesy of guest noisician Crank Sturgeon, who hurls all sorts of random vocal gibberish into the fray. It lacks any discernable backbone but still dances the room on sheer vivacity and thrill for life. Elsewhere, there is dancing mbira from Duracell's Andrew Dymond ('Good Riddance'), Chinese song from Dada-inspired Beijing vocalist Xiao He ('Dutar') and a closing piece where Marylise and Eric milk the German folk song 'Hole In The Bucket' for maximum comedic effect. It's Vialka's most fragmented, silly, playful record to date, and listening to it you're reminded that what you look for in this world isn't newness per se - would you even recognise it if you saw it? - but art created with a passion for its place in the universe, are created out of sheer love for the now.


"With their third album, this French duo has created their richest, most intricately arranged music, rife with musical surprises. Marylise Frechville's agile drumming and urgent torch singing, supported by Eric Boros' nimble, dynamic guitar work recalls the Spartan intensity and virtuosity of another mighty French band, Etron Fou Leloublan. Vialka’s wildly unpredictable compositions, full of unexpected twists and turns, combine elements of folk, prog rock, improvisation, jazz and cabaret within the group’s own eccentric, distinctly European aesthetic. Enhanced by a handful of guest players and Bob Drake's able production, "Succès" is another fascinating chapter in Vialka’s creative development." - Paul Lemos


"I’ve been avoiding starting this review for a couple of days now. Not because this is a bad record, because it’s not, but more that I’m not sure how to approach reviewing it. Vialka have got me stumped. My frame of reference for this style of music is pretty limited and I hate to fall back on lazy journalism techniques, but the best way I can describe Vialka is like Gogol Bordello meets Battles. There’s a hint of Fugazi in there as well. Let me try again. Vialka are a two piece gypsy folk punk band from France. Succès Planétaire International is their sixth album. Their motto for this record was “more rock, less talk.” Most bands could do with taking their advice.

The first thing that you hear on Succès Planétaire International is what can only be described as a folk waltz riff being played by a tuba. This is the first thing that confused me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a tuba being used on record. I guess there’s a first time for everything. The next thing that threw me was the drums and guitar. This is where the motto of “more rock, less talk’ comes into play. The drummer scatters around her snare drum and hi hat recalling the precise, syncopated style of Battles’ John Stainer, whilst the guitar plays a descending riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Fugazi record. Over the course of six minutes, Vialka twist and turn their way through four different time signatures, numerous stops and starts and at least three different musical styles. As odd as it is to compare a folk band to Battles, it’s not that far off the mark. ‘Good Riddance’ again showcases Vialka’s tendency towards intricate rhythms, with both guitar and drums showcasing restrained yet complex riffs, fusing both folk music and math rock seamlessly. Like a cross between Battles and Gogol Bordello.

World music is often seen as a dirty word, a genre with slight returns at best. On Succès Planétaire International, Vialka have proven not only that world music shouldn’t always be disregarded, but that you can produce interesting and thought provoking records under its umbrella, without sounding like one of those terrible bands that always get booked for Later With Jools Holland. Just remember: “more rock, less talk.”" - David Pott-Negrine