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PoiL / Ueda - 2023 - “Yoshitsune"

(39:56; Dur Et Doux)


The first four albums from French avant garde outfit PoiL featured the trio of Antoine Arnera (keyboards, vocals), Boris Cassone (guitar, vocals) and Guilhem Meier (drums, vocals), but since then they have been joined by Benoit Lecomte on bass, a role previously also undertaken by Boris, but in early 2023 a new outfit came together called Poil Ueda which also includes Japanese musician Junko Ueda (satsuma biwa, vocals). Their debut self-titled release was very enjoyable indeed as they mixed European avant-garde with Japanese styles to create a new artform with two genres crashing into each other to tell a traditional Japanese tale. This time around we have the epic story of samurai hero Yoshitsune. At the naval battle of Dan-no-Ura, he brought victory to the Genji clan in the long war against the Heike clan. Yoritomo, Genji general and Yoshitsune's elder brother, suspects that our hero secretly intends to seize power, and orders his assassination. Despite Yoshitsune's heroic service and solemn oath, he and his loyal vassal Benkei are forced into exile. Okay, I took that from the press release and have no idea if there is any information contained within the booklet in English, but what I do know is that yet again this is an album which in many ways should never work, but somehow does, brilliantly. I have been fortunate enough to hear quite a few Japanese prog albums over the years as once upon a time the Poseidon label used to send me everything they released, with my favourite probably being Quikion (their 2005 DVD is well worth grabbing). But none of them sounded like this, as here we have a well-known experimental band joining forces with a leading figure in Japanese medieval epic storytelling to create something which is quite unlike anything else around. This is not easy to listen to, and with the vocals in Japanese I have no idea what is going on so instead treat them as an additional instrument while the use of the Japanese plucked lute provides a very different and almost Buddhist feel of the music as two cultures try to work out how to combine, give up, and create something very different indeed. This will not be to everyone’s tastes, but as soon as I started listening to this, I knew it was yet another indispensable release from Dur et Doux.

Progtector: February 2024

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