LE GRAND SBAM - Furvent
French trio PoiL must be one of the busiest bands around. Apart from releasing music on their own, they are also active in two other projects: PinioL and Le Grand Sbam, both of which elaborate on the trio’s weird avant prog sounds. Le Grand Sbam released their first longplayer Vaisseau Monde last December, and nearly exactly a year later, they are already back with their next album Furvent.
On their debut, they were six people, now they have grown to be an octet. Apart from the guys from PoiL playing keyboards, bass and drums, there are also a couple of female vocalists, a percussionist and someone playing the cimbalon, which is something like a vibraphone with metal strings, and it’s that latter instrument that helps define Le Grand Sbam’s idiosyncratic sound.
The label defines the music as a mix between rock, contemporary music, ancient music, jazz and electroacoustics, and that makes sense throughout the hour-long record. It is not surprising that Le Grand Sbam is warmly welcomed by the progressive rock community, as their music at times reminds of Magma, who have a similar approach, but where the godfathers of Zeuhl sound operatic, you get a more insectile feeling with Le Grand Sbam, as if they were deliberately exploring a more microscopic universe. The female vocals have a lot of jazz, and the arrangements often remind of adventurous contemporary classical music.
Furvent begins with the nearly twenty-minute long La Trace, a song inspired by Alain Damasio’s fantasy novel La Horde du Contrevent, which ironically also named the French metal band La Horde, but they play a whole different kind of music. La Trace is a challenging piece of music, full of different parts and moods. The sound is mostly defined by acoustic instrument, but synthesizers with really weird sounds can be detected underneath it all. The following Nephèsh is at five minutes a shorter track, played on the piano and accompanied by vocals. But the music and the voices are incredibly complex, and it’s especially the multi-layered vocals that sound like an instrument of their own. Again, heavy stuff to digest, but in the end extremely rewarding. Yi Yin is a song cycle of eight movements, making it over half an hour, treating the bagua, eight important symbols in Taoism that define the fundamental principles of reality. Considering that Le Grand Sbam are eight people on this album, there might be a correlation. Although I am not into esotericism, I did enjoy this epic composition. To top it off, we get Choon Choon, the only catchy song on the album. This is on the surface classic French chanson, except that in the background so much is happening that you won’t feel betrayed. Yes, Le Grand Sbam are a very serious band, but they can also have fun.
I give Furvent the maximum rating. It might not be an album that I will listen to at the end of a stressful workday, but when you want to spoil your ears and your brain with a truly heady cocktail, this is a great place to start.