POIL UEDA – Yoshitsune

Dur et Doux 2023

Building bridges between Gallia and Nippon to make the twain meet, tuneful tales of yore acquire avant-garde soundtrack.


Hardly ever devoid of quirkiness in the last decade and a half, this Lyon trio have never been averse to upping the quotient of their unorthodoxy, but doing so by inviting a traditional musician to realize a joint effort is a unique approach in and of itself. Not that the reasoning behind it would boil down to deepening the enigma the French ensemble managed to project even before they played with Junko Ueda for the first time; what POIL aimed at, finding a common melodic language with her and engaging label mate Benoit Lecomte to lay down acoustic bass rumble, amounted to pure experiment of making East and West meet on the least predictable, yet most congruous, grounds. Factor in the evident telepathy between the five performers, and here’s a fiery artifact named after legendary Japanese general whose adventures are fantastically – in sonic terms – depicted across eight numbers on offer.

Two of these are epics, the three parts of “Kumo 雲(船弁慶)” slowly weaving Ueda’s satsuma biwa and shōmyō – respectively, lute used to accompany epic storytelling, and chant – into electric environment and robust grooves that wrap folk and funk motifs into fusion shroud to allow Guilhem Meier’ drums to have a battlefield day, while Antoine Arnera’s ivories fathom spatial frontiers and Boris Cassone’s guitars trade licks with their fellow spirit’s exotic strings until morphing their voices into a cathedral-filling choir and letting the frenzy forces return into the fray. The outcome of this aural tornado may seem histrionic, yet it’s also extremely arresting, riveting even, restlessly shifting rhythms and scarcely restrained vocal insanity rewiring the listener’s psyche time and again to an extent where the unhurried “Omine-san 大峰山(吉野静)” feels as ominous as opera which has been distilled to dry essentials and sacrificed to dark drone, and the synthesizer-laden “Yoshino 吉野(静の和歌)” crawls at a creepy pace towards instrumental horrors – and exquisite, barely bearable magnificence, too.

Still, the a cappella “Ataka 安宅” that’s stricken with flurries of plucked notes, the fierce filigree of frozen feathers, conceals a true drama, one the double-barreled “Kokô 虎口” softens by the finesse of its crystalline strum and spiritual singing – all drenched in torrential gusts of keyboard lines, gradually gaining weight and forming riffs. Here’s all-conquering magic in these pieces, the wonder which can be born only between cultures, and “Yoshitsune” is a unique interface any music fan must navigate to.


February 7, 2024

Category(s): Reviews
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