AMN Reviews: Le Grand Sbam – Furvent (2020; Dur et Doux)

French collective Le Grand Sbam is back with another oddly creative and compelling offering. Furvent, the follow up to last year’s Vaisseau Monde, is a 60-minute exploration of the novel The Horde of the Counterwind as well as the symbolism of the I Ching. That said, the vocals are in French, so I cannot comment on their content. On the other hand, the music is universally expressive and lands somewhere between progressive rock, rock opera, electronic, and chant. Stylistically, Le Grand Sbam is closer to Etron Fou Leloublan, Magma, and Zappa than your standard prog-rock fare. Indeed, the group’s experimentalism pervades Furvent.

An octet, three members are of the equally quirky rock group PoiL – Antoine Arena on piano and electronics, Boris Cassone on bass and mellotron, and Guilhem Meier on drums and percussion. They are joined by Jessica Martin Maresco and Marie Nachury on vocals, Grégoire Ternois on percussion, Mihaï Trestian on cimbalom, and Anne Quillier on Moog and Rhodes. In addition to the two dedicated vocalists, four others also contribute to the voice parts.

One can easily get whiplash from parts of the album, with the songs changing tempos, instrumentation, and direction on a frequent and unpredictable basis. In addition to this rhythmic sophistication, the emphasis is on multi-part voicings, choruses, and general vocal weirdness. More atmospheric than its predecessor Furvent manages to sound both planned and to some extent improvised, with compositions so unusual that I find myself stopping and wondering, “Did they really mean to do that??”

For anyone not familiar with Le Grand Sbam or PoiL, I cannot recommend this and their other works highly enough. If you are wondering where all the innovative art rock is hiding, look no further. A breath of fresh air.

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