PoiL – Dins O Cuol

PoiL - Dins O Cuol

If there was any other band out there today I might compare PoiL to, it would be miRthkon. Like those loveable avant-prog banana afficionados, PoiL virtually defy conventional definitions of genre. Yet, in spite of this avant-leaning weirdness, they come from a very firm musical tradition, in this case being the ‘RIO’ or Rock In Opposition movement. Zappa-esque swirling instrumentation and whimsy are bolstered with an impressive knowledge and application of modern classical trends. The wacky approach on Dins O cuol serves them well for the most part and suggests this French trio has a ton of weirdly compelling potential, although a lack of structure and misguided sense of humour sometimes makes their second album more of a test of listening endurance than anything.

Although the weird, manic approach should come as no surprise to veterans of avant and other ‘forward-thinking’ progressive rock, PoiL‘s music doesn’t tend to make sense. Listening to the album and the way they’ve structured the music, I get the impression it isn’t meant to. Logic and convention is thrown out the door for the most part, and with the notable exception of “Trouille Cosmique” (which offers a semblance of catchiness and form), PoiL‘s songwriting unfolds rhapsodically. It’s worthy of mention that PoiL don’t make use of an electric guitar. A rock-based energy is PoiL‘s lifeblood, but it’s the keyboard orchestrations of Antoine Arnera that delivers most of the band’s clear ‘ideas’. For a keyboardist, Arnera’s playing is incredibly dissonant and biting, which might have better showcased the band’s neoclassical influence, had the music not felt so whimsical and silly. Boris Cassone’s bass work is less pronounced, but arguably more consistent. Guilhem Meier’s drumming is actually the aspect of PoiL‘s sound that has impressed me the most; especially during the music’s most chaotic moments, it sounds like he’s tapping into a semi-permanent free jazz fill- almost certainly overwhelming to accustomed ears, but brilliant if heard with ears experienced in this sort of music.

Despite my reservations towards Dins O cuol, I can’t call their instrumentation anything short of excellent. Ultimately, most of the gripes I have towards the performance are aimed towards the vocals, an element of their sound contributed to by all three members. ‘Weird’ vocals often tread the border between being exciting and tasteless; for PoiL the vocals all-too often fall in the latter category. The wacky sprechsegang and kitschy screams of Mike Patton come first to mind, and even in his case, I wasn’t always into his jarring vocal experiments. ForPoiL, I’m generally left feeling like the vocals (and some of their musical choices) have been orchestrated purely for the sake of bad humour. For all their musical sophistication and intelligence, PoiL have an atrociously bad sense of humour. Their cartoonish music video for “Trouille Cosmique” was pretty cute and the callow jest has generally worked for ZappaDevin Townsend and PoiL‘s own contemporaries in miRthkon. In PoiL‘s case, the whimsical vibe compliments sections of the album, but far too often it falls somewhere between being puzzling and outright disgusting. The worst offender in this case is “Vilain Manderin”, not the song so much, but the ‘bonus’ ten minutes that follows. The sampling of bodily functions, irritating vocalizations and half-baked ‘scat’ warbling is frankly nauseating. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not prudish about gross humour in the slightest (I myself once recorded an album entitled Recordungs!) but when the joke overshadows the ‘musical’ elements, it becomes impossible to tolerate. Even if I was impressed by the actual musicianship, the extended outro kills the enthusiasm I would have had for it after it ended. Then again, there are people out there who like Zappa‘s Lumpy Gravy and Mike Patton‘s Adult Themes for Voice, so don’t take my word for it.

There’s some potentially great avant-prog on Dins O cuol, but it comes with the requirement of wading through some shit to get to it. PoiL could be brilliant, and in some ways they already are. At the very least, the fact that they’ve been able to both amaze and disgust me within the same forty minute period is something any avant-leaning band could be proud of.


1. Tronche À Cul (6:49)
2. Trouille Cosmique (9:57)
3. Dins O Cuol (9:09)
4. Le Vilain Mandarin (14:14)


* Antoine Arnera – keyboards, voices
* Boris Cassone – bass, voices
* Guilhem Meier – drums, voices

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