AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: PoiL Ueda – PoiL Ueda (2023; Dur & Doux)

This is another weird and wonderful release from the world of PoiL. Said outfit is a French latter-day progressive rock band (guitar / keyboards / bass / drums) prone to complex composition with a heavy emphasis on group vocals. Here, they are joined by Japanese vocalist Junko Ueda, who is known for her medieval storytelling and playing the satsuma biwa (a lute-like instrument). The result is…unexpected.

Nonetheless, this self-titled debut consists of two long suites each broken across multiple tracks. It has a total run time of about 31 minutes.

Kujô Shakujô begins with traditional Japanese chanted vocals over a slow-moving ambient layer of floating keyboard chords and flourishes with long-held bass notes. Ueda flirts with throat singing. The result is spacey and quite striking. The second part adds arpeggiated guitar chords and a simple drum pattern to the mix, while the bass provides a broken riff. This builds in complexity and chaos until it segues into the third part, in which PoiL goes full-on prog to support Ueda, even providing some backing vocals. The result is labyrinthine and quite involved but still comes across as being tightly constructed, even restrained.

Dan No Ura follows with prominent satsuma biwa in addition to a pounding yet jagged drum and bass rhythm. The vocals continue but are more oriented toward singing than chant. This evolves into an overall structure along the same lines as the latter sections of Kujô Shakujô. Heavy riffing and sweeping keyboards alternate and contrast with quieter passages. The second part is quieter with singing and satsuma biwa over sparse bass and drums. Ultimately, it is a showcase for Ueda, who emotes effectively throughout.

PoiL Ueda will be released in February 2023 by Dur & Doux.