Now in his late forties, guitarist Marc Ducret has built a career out of taking the essence of various traditions and turning them on their side. With Qui Parle? Ducret has fashioned perhaps his most ambitious and audacious effort to date, a seventy-five minute suite that is bold and almost entirely indefinable in terms of how it references any known style. This is a daring release that creates its own vernacular.
Ranging from chamber-like passages to punk-informed rock themes to free passages to segments that have their roots in the blues but are twisted every which way, and often all within the same piece, Ducret steps outside the box and sees music as a true confluence of ideas. There are no boundaries as Ducret fashions a unique landscape that draws from rural and urban forms, but never quite meets either place.
With a large cast of supporting musicians, Ducret has a broad palette with which to colour his musical canvas. From rock power trios to brass ensembles to spacious piano/keyboards/voice trios, Ducret has composed six extended pieces that are tied together by four short, interlude-like segments. Sounding like Robert Johnson on acid, “L’Annexe (Rural)” is an acoustic guitar solo that introduces “L’Annexe,” which mixes elements of progressive rock, blues and funk with a broader harmonic knowledge that includes atonality and moments of jagged dissonance. Such a varied programme risks sounding contrived and academic, but through it all is passion, intensity and glimpses of true beauty; the wealth of ideas is so rich that new elements are revealed with each and every listen. This is an album where each play feels like the first time.
In the same way that his writing has subsumed a breadth of styles and twisted them at strange angles, so has Ducret’s guitar work managed to reference a diversity of influences, all the while absorbing them into a wholly unique language. With the possible exception of Bill Frisell, there is not a guitarist alive who so richly articulates his roots with such an immediately recognizable and distinctive bent; but compared to the far more oblique Ducret, Frisell sounds positively mainstream.
With a catalogue of recordings that show an artist who is continuing to carve a completely personal space in modern music, Qui Parle? is arguably his best recording to date; certainly it is his boldest and most expansive. Kudos to Sketch Records and Philippe Ghielmetti for having the vision to release what will certainly be one of the most exploratory, demanding and far-reaching albums of 2004.