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Monday, October 8, 2012

Marc Ducret - Tower Vol.4 (Ayler Records, 2012) ****½

Posted by Joe

The instant I saw Marc Ducret's name on the list I rushed to open up the file to get a listen. It's always a pleasure and an experience to listen to Marc Ducret he's, as far as I know, never made a bad record. Everything I've heard has all the elements needed to make great music : original, accessible, avant-garde, melodic, rhythmic, rocks, swings ... and the list goes on. This latest release is another in the Tower series : 'Tower, Vol.4'  and this time a solo project. For those interested Vol.1 was his French ensemble and Vol.2 with a Franco/American group. As far as I know there's no Vol.3, or not released on CD that is. 

I remember (a few weeks ago) reviewer Paolo Casertano's trilogy of articles on Stian Westerhus where he talked about Westerhus as a new Derek Bailey. After reading his articles I immediately thought of a few other guitarists that really deserved a place in that list -  Fred Frith, Hans Reichel, the excellent Keith Rowe, to name three players. Marc Ducret is another guitarist who should also be on that list, and for me he's also on a different level than Stian Westerhus. Ducret's creativity holds no bounds, as this album attests. And, to add to the interest, it's all on acoustic guitar! If you know Marc Ducret's playing from the multitude of artists he works with, you can certainly attest to the amazing range and depth of sounds he manages to coach out of his guitar. He can also write a good, if slightly left field, melody also. Anyone interested in such a project should check out his big band project Le Sens de la Marche.

There are nine solo instrumentals on the record. Each track plays off the different textures or aspects of the guitars sound. The acoustics (in the room where he's recording) are perfect, making for a very intimate listening experience. In fact you can even hear birds in the background tweeting away on some of the pieces.

Some of the highlights for me are - 'From a Distant Land' (Tk1) where he uses his guitar like a Japanese Koto. Ducret eventually turns the piece around with some wonderful 'dampened string' playing which pulses along and sounds not unlike John Cage's piano on 'Sonatas & Interludes for prepared piano'. There's a reprise of this piece, a second take I imagine, later on the record called '... Distant Land' (Tk7). The third track 'Sisters' is a microscopic view of harmonics on the guitar, short but very beautiful. 'sur l'électricité' (Tk2) is a typical Ducret sounding piece, something between Derek Bailey and Gary Lucas in Beefheart's band (ex : 'Flavor Bud Living'). The atonal lines are often a-rhythmic but certainly beautiful to listen to, often developing into chords or strummed sections. 'Ada' (Tk6) another piece with plenty of space also has surprising leaps and melodic twists. It finishes in glorious large chords, which have no real name - harmonically that is.

Finally, what I really enjoy about Marc Ducret's playing, and this record in general, is his ability to constantly come up with fresh sounding music. He manages to be utterly 'in' the avant-garde and yet remain very accessible, not unlike John Cage did. There's always plenty of things for the listener to hold onto (sort of audio guide post), but with plenty of new sounds you can marvel at. The music is full of details and depth which means you can come back to discover something new each time.

If you don't already know Marc Ducret this may be a good place to start. And for anyone wanting to hear what's possible on a guitar this has plenty of inspiring ideas, unless you're thinking of auditioning for the X-Factor of course!

Highly recommended, as always.

Postscript : I sent an email to Paolo recommending the above album. In his reply he made a very pertinent remark which sums up the large range of music to be found on the album. I quote : 
"The music on this record seems to be ancient and really modern at the same time. A rare blend!"
I couldn't have put it better myself, thanks!


Anonymous said...

This review is absolutely overflowing with grammar mistakes, word misuse, sentence fragments, cluttered prose, and nonsensical statements -- and yet you have the gall to use "(sic)" in the one quote you take from another reviewer on this blog?

The passion that's evident in the writing is always appreciated, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture before you call out others on their minor mistakes.

Paolo Casertano said...

To whoever wrote the above comment:
I'm maybe naive, but I haven't feel offended by the underlining that Joe made of a minor mistake (by the way? Where is it exactly?). I write of something I'm still trying to understand in a language that is not my mother tongue. Then, I often receive nice comments. And, still, I'm contacted by someone that has made of music is life and career to get an opinion on a review he has written, and maybe have a nice sentence to close his thoughts. That is what I did. In the same review Joe made clear that he appreciated my work, but he also has different ideas and tastes on musicians and music we both love. This is certainly the greater quality of this blog: its many voices. Finally, if Paul Acquaro can survive to my many grammar mistakes while editing my reviews, I'll surely survive to the "misuse" of the Latin “sic” by an English speaker.
So, thanks to Joe for quoting me and thanks to Anonymous for defending me!

Paolo Casertano said...

Before you kill me:
6th line of my previous comment - his life not is life - possessive pronoun and not a predicate. Everything becomes more difficult with a drilling trumpet or a distorted guitar perpetually in your ears...
Please, find the other mistakes!

Richard said...

I have volume 2 in the series, and it is terrific. Tim Berne and Marc make a great combo, Tom Rainey is Tom Rainey and the violin, played by Dominique Pifarely, makes a wonderful addition to the Big Satan line-up. I had been planning on exploring the other volumes in the series. This review is a good excuse.

Thanks for the review, Joe.

joesh said...

Hi Richard, thanks. However, sorry for the sloppy writing, Anon was quite right. I was too hasty in posting it.

As for the "(sic)" reference I should add it's NOT an insult, and nor is it meant to be. I guess the fact that my own review was so full of mistakes means that it backfired on me. I've deleted it so as not to cause any more problems.

Well, that's life.

Pete said...

This sounds exciting, a new name to me and certainly a musician to investigate. By the way, according to the Ayler Records site, vol. 3 (sextet) is scheduled for recording in late 2012, to be released in the first half of 2013.

Stephane said...

I can confirm that.
Recording of volume 3 will actually take place in 10 days, for 3 days, and I'm quite confident in our capability to deliver after that.