The opening call to attention of Metal Rouge's epic "Dead Elk" comfortably assimilates two poles—that of Albert Ayler's ecstatic pleading to all on the other side who would listen, the ghosts and the spirits, and that of the steady clomp-clomp of a high plains drifter, out for vengeance, but with time enough to stop and relight his or her cigar. Then, over the encouraging tumble of Caitlin Mitchell's rolling toms, the message increases in urgency, Helga Fassonaki's chants begin, and Andrew Scott's guitar keeps the body electric humming and rising, a soldier in the Army of Eternal Music. The players continue to arc and collide with natural dynamism, until the Dead Elk has been properly celebrated, and all is left in rubble.
These are three sets of prime Metal Rouge, absolutely in the mode of ascension and contemplation of the many Andrew/Helga duo recordings (like the Ephemeroptera series and the Three for Malachi Ritscher CD), and most similar to the recent Trails LP created by the trio, but infused even more so with the might of a band that's been touring and playing at semi-regular intervals, constantly greasing their improvisational wheels.
Sets two and three are far-afield variations on tracks that appear on the Trails LP; "The Sad Song (666)" is radically sparse and gloomy—and there's that "on to the next mirage" feeling again, until the beat picks up, and Tago Mago-era Can is viewed, albeit from Angelo Badalamenti's highway; "The Sunshine Path" is Metal Rouge's "song," so to speak—the riff everyone remembers—though it too never takes the same shape twice, lurking as it does near the not-so-unlikely-after-all corner of Linda Sharrock and Skullfower.
You can catch Metal Rouge on the final leg of their tour in San Francisco (Cafe Du Nord, Sept. 4), and in home-base Los Angeles, with shows at Mid Town Wig (Sept. 7) and Echo Curio (Sept. 16.)
Many thanks to the band for trucking up to the station mid-tour, tired but barely showing it, and whipping out these spirited sets. Thanks to Jason Sigal for expert session engineering in general, and a great drum mix in particular, and to Tracy Widdess for bitch-slapping my lousy photos.