PoiL — Sus
(Dur et Doux DD-027, 2019, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-02-05
In the ranks of bands playing complex, noisy music, PoiL surely has a special place. Their music is so packed full of changes in rhythm and tempo that it can be challenging for listeners to keep up, and it’s all delivered in an energetic, overdriven manner. As seems to be their habit, Sus fills a traditional LP length with one long track on each side combined with one or two shorter pieces to fill out the available time. In this case, the long pieces are “Sus la Peira” and “Chin Fòu” (around 12 and 14 minutes respectively), and the shorter pieces are “Lo Potz,” “Luses Fades,” and “Grèu Martire” (ranging from just over a minute to a bit over seven). Boris Cassone (bass), Guilhem Meier (drums), and Antoine Arnera (keyboards) have been together since the band’s start more than 10 years ago, which might account for some of the incredible coordination they exhibit in their music. To a certain extent they sound like Magma crossed with a math-rock band and cranked up in intensity. Given the aggressive tones on bass and keyboards (a distorted electric piano is one of Arnera’s go-to sounds), their brand of tricky rhythm never sounds clinical or over-rehearsed — it’s like these guys feel the shifting patterns in their bones and attack their instruments without having to concentrate too much. One thing about Sus that is somewhat surprising is the prominence of the vocal arrangements. Many of the tracks feature two- or three-part vocal sections, some of which seem to be in French but others may not be. The short track “Lo Potz” consists of unaccompanied vocal parts, and is slightly reminiscent of Gentle Giant’s vocal arrangements. The balance between vocal sections and instrumentals is just right, and over all, Sus is a joyfully weird listening experience, one of my favorites of 2019.
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