JoeMc on 04/01/2010 at 02:52PM
Vialka have recorded a song called "Gulag Song" that helps to explain their name. Apparently, while touring in Russia, they fell in with some pranksters who made a habit of dodging train fares by pretending to be deaf and dumb. The Russian soldiers in charge of the train found our heroes guilty by association and tossed them off in a town called (you guessed it) Vialka. Vialka, it seems, was a village originally populated by folks who spent some time in the gulags.
Somehow the name fits, with one exception: Usually, Vialka are throwing themselves off trains and buses all around the world. There's a reason for that. In true French manner, Vialka have a Philosophy. They view their music as not just music, but as a means of conducting a greater "social scientific experiment" among the people. They perform in parts of the world that don't get to see musicians like them, and they meet and play with musicians from those places. (They've picked up a few tunes along the way, too, like the Chinese and German folk songs that appeared on their last album, Succes Planetaire International.) By getting out into the world and creating connections with people, Vialka are doing their part to keep artistic life percolating in places where politics or economics stymie local creativity.
Lofty aims wouldn't mean much, though, if Frecheville and Boros didn't deliver musically, and they do, whether they're spinning a gypsy melody or veering into skronk. Both of them have had various degrees of musical training, but whatever they didn't have to begin with has developed over their years of playing together. After a spell in the "jazz punk" trio NNY, they formed Vialka and put out their first album in 2002. Since then, non-stop touring and recording have honed their talents. Live shows are their pain et beurre, and at any particular show, you may witness dervish dancing, wild cries and calls, and perhaps the delivery of a recitation in the middle of the audience, not to mention some extremely solid, creative drumming and time signatures that would make a prog band dewy with admiration.
If you're not in Asia or Australia this month, or Brooklyn for that matter, you'd do well to keep an eye on their Web site for future gigs: http://www.vialka.com. Getting into a village mentality might do us all a bit of good!