Sus is the third studio album by PoiL, an avant-prog trio formed in Lyon, France in 2005. The fourth if Bran Coucou, made with the compatriots, ni band and under the name PoiL, counts.
PoiL’s second album Brossaklitt was a sensation in avant-prog The album’s brutally complex, heavy yet mischievously debauched lyrics and truly disconcerting vocal performances were something never heard before.
PoilL’s good momentum continued in 2018 with another French band ni, Bran Coucou. Bran Coucou was a slightly more serious album than Brossaklitt and the larger band brought not only a more massive power to the game but also took the band’s complex polyrhythms to a more challenging level.
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Sus is a return to the trio line-up of PoiL (Antoine Arnera: keyboards and vocals, Boris Cassone: bass and vocals, Guilhem Meier: drums and vocals). Recorded in a week, mostly live, and largely without overdubs, Sus is a very different album from Brossaklitt or Bran Coucou. The music is more serious and concise.
As is often the case with complex avant-prog, all the music on Sus is composed in advance and rehearsed in the studio from sheet music. PoilL reportedly kept to a very strict compositional approach, making only very marginal changes to the songs in the studio. The band’s goal was to compose only two long songs that would fit on one vinyl. The result is a tight 40-minute album with the 20-minute ”Luseta” on the A-side consisting of three sections and ”Lou Libre de L’Amour” on the B-side, of the same length, split into two parts.
The compositions this time pay particular attention to complex and polyphonic vocal parts (sung in Occitan) which I associate with old church music of the Renaissance, but the band says it also draws inspiration from old polyphonic songs from the south of France.
Despite the surprisingly mellow vocal parts, Sus is at times an ungodly heavy pounding, even if it is not a monolithic blast in the same way as Bran Coucou was. As a three-piece, PoiL is a more agile band than PinioL and the songs seem far more complex and nuanced than their Bran Coucou counterparts. Sus is PoiL’s most subtle album to date. As subtle as one can be when playing with a sledgehammer.
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As a three-piece, PoiL can’t achieve the same kind of polyrhythm as PinioL, but rhythmically the music is once again very sparkling and the tempos are often furiously fast. The dizzyingly complex keyboard parts also deserve a special mention. These can be heard throughout the album, but perhaps the most striking moments come in the highlight of the album, the 14-minute ”Chin Fou” (”Lou Libre de L’Amour” last part).
On Sus, PoiL strikes a great balance between the creepy madness of Brossa Klitt and the impressive polyrhythmic heaviness of Bran Coucou. Sus is so far the most balanced and strongest album to come out of the PoiL/PinioL camp.
Best songs: ’Luses Fadas’ and ’Chin Fou’