Vallee of Ashes

Exceptional record of live improvised noise and electro-acoustic diablery from Marteau Rouge, joined by Keiji Haino on this 13 July 2009 recording Concert A Luz 2009 (FOU RECORDS FR-CD 45).

We have a lot of time for Marteau Rouge, the French experimental trio where the VCS3 synthi of Jean-Marc Foussat wrestles with the guitar of Jean-Francois Pauvros and the drumming of Makoto Sato…even though they haven’t actually made that many records. We really enjoyed Un Jour Se Lève from 1998 and the Noir record from 2012, but there haven’t been that many other discs to collect outside of the 2009 team-up with Evan Parker. The group (active since 1992) have performed live dozens of times in France, often appearing with many greats of free improv, free jazz, and modern guitar noise. I think since 2016 they’re not even a going concern any longer, but of course Jean-Marc continues his great work with the Fou Records label.

As to the powerful music hereon, expect an hour of fairly remorseless attack and very rich, saturated noise – enhanced by the mad vocal outpourings from Foussat, Pauvros, and Haino himself – which only occasionally subsides into quieter and more reflective moments. The image of the red-hot lava flow on the cover was presumably not chosen by accident. A colour photograph of the group in action on stage, lit in shades of purple, turquoise and black, somehow conveys the image of an alien invasion rather than a conventional music concert. Joel Pagier, the writer from ImproJazz, contributes liner notes, and even he is thrown back onto reaching for metaphors such as “pushing each other towards abrupt cliffs” and “a chime was heard from beyond the grave”. He does however make us aware of the exciting in-the-moment thrill of playing improv music live, referring to “Haino’s demented proposal” as but one instance of their interactive strategy. Well, they may be demented proposals, but they certainly lead to great outcomes, and as Pagier concludes we are left with “an image of the world as it should be”.

I suppose the guitar playing (two guitarists) does dominate the record to some extent, and the manic free-rock drumming tends to make this release a kind of Fushitsusha-manque – melodramatic, full of black shadows, heightened emotions, everyone going off the deep end at once. I personally would have liked to hear more from Foussat’s synth – as I’m continually reminding everyone, he does things with that instrument that nobody else seems capable of. From 11 May 2022.

Stream it here

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