PoiL – Sus [Dur et Doux 2019]
Few repetitions of a keyboard ascending chord played in combinations of three quarters and octaves bars, then the things get heated and an impressive wall of sound hugs the audience. We are at second floor of an old castle in a middle Italy city, the unusual location of Fuochi nella Notte, a festival taking place at Genazzano’s Castello Colonna. The weird contrast between the full force assault of the initial notes played by French unclassifiable trio PoiL and the history surrounding the place, it’s kind of the perfect fit to the trio’s eccentricity. The sludge-like polyrhythmic pattern, driven by the fully distorted keyboards, counterpointed by the overdriven bass and wrapped by the steady drumming hysteria, creates a feeling of suspension in the air. Everything is stuck for some minutes, there’s no rest until everything calms down and the three of them start singing a polyphonic renaissance-like chant. The sonic assault enacted by the trio in the initial notes of sus la peira from their latest Sus produces a sense of extended trance like state. The audience enters soon an upside-down world made of hysteria that makes sense, of polyrhythmic beats that feel consonant, of sudden burst of energy that appear totally in place.
The Lyon based trio PoiL is now releasing their fourth album since their start in 2005, the last publushed with french label Dur et Doux. To add to these releases also two co-authored efforts, one with bolivian Mula at double name Mula Poil and another with french math rockers Ni at name PinioL, Bran Coucou which was hailed as one of the most impressive releases in 2018 among avant progressive rock fans. They draw inspiration from rock progressive and RIO -they already shared stage at Rock in Opposition festival in Carmaux and are coming back this year in Lyon-, but also from math rock, extreme metal, avant electronica, and even folk. Starting from a mixture of the music conceptions as diverse as Zappa, Stravinsky, Chopin and the theatrical approach of Charlie Chaplin -as their very first bio indicated-, the first album L’ire des Papes is an impressive and unclassifiable show of music hysteria and dadaist taunts. Antoine Arnera, who sits at piano for the first release and will then dedicate at keyboards only for the future releases, mixes classical influences, progressive rock leanings and fatty sounds. Boris Cassone provides pivotal bass lines and often loves to move in the higher register of guitar, leaving rhythmic duties to the keyboard. Guilhem Meier, who has already showed up in the extreme afrobeat Ukandanz, is a forceful and technical drummer, who plays effortlessly complicate patterns with a punk attitude.
After the previous releases Dins o cuol and Brossaklitt, an intense live work and start calling themselves a ‘big beat surf band’, PoilL has slowly integrated math rock, Meshuggah-like rhythmic combinations and extreme metal noise in their dadaist playing. Still it’s not just for the aggressive sound combinations that Sus is a milestone of an higher level of maturity for the band, but also for it’s a solid and coherent work that always keep tension high. Divided in two twenty minutes songs, each subdivided in two or three tracks, it starts with the impressive show of whammy glissandos from an octave to the upper played unison by bass and keyboards. The three start singing an occitan inspired polyphonic chant over a complex rhythm, playing with hypnotic utterances repetitions and sudden bursts of energy. During the middle part of sus la peira the three go back and forth to variations of the initial part intro pattern, alternating fatty distorted whammy sounds to Fender Rhodes. At around nine minutes a nonsense vocal polyphony -much more in the style of Cardiacs or Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s Stimmung– provides a dadaist break until the new outburst of crazy rhythmic patterns and noisy keyboard sounds. It seems like moving from haunting Zeuhl atmospheres, to a sort of Zappian crazyness.
The following lo potz and luses fadas are the second and third part of the bigger song Luseta. The three alternate raw post punk excursions to electronic raids, aggressive uptempo and the usual polyphonic chants without losing any second the throttle of a track going up and down like a roller coaster. Greu Martire, which is the first part of Lou Libre de L’Amour inspired by occitan poet Théodore Aubanel‘s eponymous work, starts with crazy Battles-like intricate math rock counterpoints, occasionally interrupted the vocal parts. This alternation of hyperspeed time and then meditative, almost relaxing vocal sections induces a sense of elated trance that starts from the very single note of the album. During the closing track, the fourteen minutes long Chin Fou, the trio concentrates more on creating almost dissonant vocal parts and on making them interact with complicate rhythmic patterns. This is until an hyper aggressive section starts at seven minutes. Arnera drives a distorted bass line at keyboards, over which he adds one of the rare solos: he seems never really caring about showing up his virtuoso solo skills, instead, he is more focused on providing noisy textures that increase the drama of the track. The bass by Cassone is highly driving and always present, while Meier is the never ending engine of the polyrhythmic force beneath each section.
Sus is a show of force, an aggressive mixture of weird elements that PoiL craft with masterful skill. They never juxtapose different styles for the sole purpose of creating explosive effects, while they want to create a narration, connecting distant elements, that might range from math rock, to folk, to extreme metal, showing a virtuoso playing together with a virtuoso writing.
1. Sus la peìra
2. Lo potz
3. Luses Fadas
LOU LIBRE DE L’AMOUR
4. Grèu Martire
5. Chin fòu
Antoine Arnera – Keyboard, vocals
Boris Cassone – Bass, vocals
Guilhem Meier – Drums, vocals
Dur et Doux