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Vialca - A l'Abri des regards indiscrets( CD/ book) [Vialca releasing - 2014]

Vialca's "A l'Abri des regards indiscrets." is the CD release of a somewhat avant garde musical theater performance, packaged in a rough fabric-bound 54 page book.

In the book are printed all of the lyrics, some of which are in French, and the rest in English.  The lyrical content, while often existential and toying with words, is simplistic enough as to be easily understandable even to someone such as myself, who knows only a small amount of French.

The music itself is centered around the voices of the two leads, one female and one male, implied clearly to be romantic partners although the 'plot' of this performance is often ambiguous, coming off more like a string of tangential philosophical examinations rather than a coherent or linear narrative.  Research reveals these two leads to be the two main members of Vialka, Marylise Frecheville and Eric Boros.

Both of them sing in a classically trained, operatic tone, which clashes heavily with the quirky, word-play heavy lyrics, precisely the kind that require a playful, expressive spirit to avoid sounding dreadfully pretentious.  When phrases like "We are nobody.  Are you nobody too?  Don't mind nobody's mess, enjoy nobody's fart on the walls" are sung with a totally straight face, and the same vibrato throughout the phrase, I can't help but cringe.  Eric Boros, in particular, is guilty of sounding stuffy and wooden, as smooth as his pitches are.

This isn't terribly melodic or emotional music, to my ears; it seems to be aiming more for 'clever', an effect dampened by the artist's apparent lack of self-awareness.  Most of the songs feature extensive use of percussively repeated words and phrases.  The first track alone repeats the word 'amour' upwards of 100 times.  The melodic abilities of the singer's voices seem to have been underused or wasted.

The moments that do work are furthest from the 'experimental opera' tag the band gives this release on their website.  The relatively simple sing-songy rhyme structure of "Peace comes from within and not from without / Hardly a slogan for living through drought" ironically captures the melancholy existentialism the rest of the album is going for, but without feeling so forced.  The repeated refrain of "Transe-Expresse", "Can we have a conversation through the floor?" is pleasantly ambiguous, and sung in a lamenting, jazzy croon.

In conclusion, the stuffy faux-profundity of this album is a lot of why I tend to avoid both musical theater and avant garde performance art.  There's a few great musical moments on this disk, but the artists' smug attempts to make every line some kind of pun, double meaning or mutation of a popular saying make it difficult to justify putting it on.  They present the image of intelligence without the substance behind it to back it up.  The performers, while technically skilled, fall into negative stereotypes of classically oriented musicians by failing to break out of their inhibitions.

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Josh Landry
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