With their third album Brossaklitt Lyon-based French trio PoiL have dropped a sonic bomb on my preconceptions. Whatever you may have considered to be avant-garde rock music in the past is taken somewhere very different with this strange mix of marching rhythms, syncopation, punky attitude and a typically off-the-wall vulgar Gallic sense of humour that in places borders on the ravings of the insane.
I know the character is Belgian and not French, but this is Tintin’s maniacal brother fronting an alt-Zeuhl band from Venus. The cover art gives clues; big, bold, lurid and dangerous, feral and naked and mostly female cartoon characters sprawl all over the cover and booklet, legs and everything else akimbo, partaking of a Bacchanalian orgy, and high on who knows what, much like the music. This thing has raided the medicine cabinet and is in your face and shouting gibberish. It wants answers now and probably hasn’t washed or slept for days.
The opening lines from first track Fionosphère shouts “You blitz eine a fuck it now fuck it”, and quite bloody right, too. The initial barking cacophony settles to complex syncopated heavy jazz prog between the keys, guitar, bass and drums. Eventually one of those Zeuhl choirs, this time low register male rather than the shrill operatic female favoured by countrymen Magma takes the song over the bridge, as the ante is slowly but surely upped. A howling guitar section that Kayo Dot would be proud of is spliced jarringly into the middle section, but somehow it works. Pseudo-Japanese gibberish is shouted over drums and bass, and here one can hear a nod to Ruins. However all these reference points are merely fleeting as this crazy band create a distinct horror-vision for us to…err…enjoy.
“PoiL” is French for bristle (as in facial stubble), and any band naming themselves like that are bound to be a tad odd. Brossaklitt the track is preceded by a spoken word intro in French that I would quite liked to have understood more than the occasional phrase; I’m sure it was as mad as a box of frogs (heheh). The title track itself has a dancing dervish of tune over which a hundred and twenty six lysergically altered dwarves shout “Yo mamie ma mia ma yo bibibi biache yo ma mie” and other such profundities at one another.
Instrumental, Patachou, with an emphasis on the mental sounds like the soundtrack to Eraserhead on too much marching powder and is the sort of thing that will annoy your wife no end. I can write that from a position of first-hand knowledge. Suddenly with Mao we enter an alternative Europop universe, a change of style so unexpected it knocks you sideways. If I could make out what the lyrics were saying then I could well be singing along to this in the shower. The printed lyrics do not seem to coincide with what is being sung. Written in what looks like a mixture of Spanish, Japanese and gibberish, they could be saying anything at all, which is probably the point. Make up your own lyrics to go round the repeated word “Mao”. Barmy indeed, but fun definitely!
Goddog ferrets about in the underbelly of a rotten psyche. Sung in English, it is a dystopian vision of blackness that concludes with the line “Will it go in your fucking skull?” A party-clearing song if ever I heard one; me, I like it. The distorted racket at this song’s conclusion appears to be on a mission to destroy your hi-fi.
Fourteen minute epic Pikiwa is punk-jazz-prog that you would be well advised to avoid if you have a weak disposition, or a hangover. After a fairly restrained intro leading into fast and furious ensemble playing, the latter half of this wayward noisefest pounds away in a manner not dissimilar to several jackhammers doing a robotic formation dance, while those mad dwarves canter and caper about. Underneath pulsing synthesiser and banging drums the bass hammers away on one note, pummelling the listener into submission; Jannick Top would be proud.
PoiL appear to be channelling the same perversely angular spirit that drives SH.TG.N, and like that band are led by a keyboard player named Antoine who likes turning it all up to eleven. The intricate syncopation throughout the album and the occasional complete style changes make it clear that these guys are no slouches. As if to calm our nerves after the preceding cacophony, and to further illustrate their chops, the album ends with La Balade Des Minochoux, a comparatively gentle electric piano-led instrumental, but in an odd time signature; they don’t want us getting too cosy, after all.
This is not an album that anyone would play with any regularity, and is about as completely different to the last album I reviewed for TPA as it could possibly be. That’s what I love about this writing lark; the sheer variety and total contrasts that sometimes occur. You may want to play this dirty beast of a record every now and again to remind you that there are some strange people out there in the world, and some of them express that strangitude through the medium of music, in this case much to the relief of the French mental health services.
Seriously though, fans of extreme Zeuhl will love it!
01. Fionosphère (10:42)
02. Introklitt (0:46)
03. Brossaklitt (4:18)
04. Patachou (10:22)
05. Mao (3:27)
06. Goddog (7:03)
07. Dins O Klitt (1:08)
08. Pikiwa (14:19)
09. La Balade Des Minochoux (5:41)
Total Time – 57:47
Antoine Arnera – Keyboards & Vocals
Boris Cassone – Bass, Guitar & Vocals
Guilhem Meier – Drums & Vocals
Record Label: AltrOck
Date 0f Release: 5th May 2014