Piles - Una Volta [Rev.Lab Records - 2018]Hailing from the French cities of Nancy and Avignon, Piles are a trio of vastly experienced drummers, Anthony Laguerre, Guigou Chevenier and Michel Deltruc. Laguerre adds guitar and keyboards to help flesh out the band’s sound.
Picking up where experimental drum trio “Les Batteries” left off when they split in 2000, Una Volta comprises eight drum centred compositions, drawing on the influences of each member’s own musical path. The most heavily cited stimuli include free jazz, improv and most of all in my opinion kosmische or krautrock. The CD has been released in a rather groovy outsize packaging to allow for the inclusion of a 32-page art booklet featuring photographs, images and words that are designed to accompany the music within.
OK, let’s get down to the music. Opening track Drones and Piles is a reinterpretation of a live version of a composition from “Drones and Drolls” which first appeared on the concept album “La Batteur Est Le Meilleur Ami Di Musicien” by Chevenier. The first thing that strikes me is the undoubted influence of Can’s Jaki Liebezeit, the drum sound is a perfect mix of his metronomic perfection and the free jazz style of drumming, even the production on the drums sounds like Can. The drums are accentuated by various electronic drones, but they remain the focal point of the whole piece. This formula is replicated across most of the album, with only a handful of tracks taking a different sonic direction. Decay is up next and doesn’t quite have the same impact as Drones and Piles, but nevertheless it is a solid piece of drum centred music. The decidedly short Ulrik once again evokes images of Can and Jaki Liebezeit, and pretty much eschews all other instrumentation in order to concentrate on those lovely motorik beats.
Mort Aux Cons provides the album’s biggest musical shift, a sonic blast of avant garde punk rock, that reminds me of some of the more interesting post-rock or post-metal bands. I can definitely hear something of Isis in there. Kraut and Piles is up next, beginning with a simple electronic drone the track is a minute old before the crash of a cymbal breaks through the monotony reminding us of the album’s central focus. As the title suggests there is a huge kosmische influence prevalent on this one with the track sprawling and building slowly over it’s nine minutes. This is one of my favourites on the album, it evokes memories of Can and Neu, but with its own spin on that sound. Materials in Us is another nine-minute epic, this one falling firmly into ambient territory. There is a much longer build before the drums kick in and even when they do, they remain understated, initially adding some subtle cymbal work to create atmosphere which intermingle with some spoken word samples. The song’s conclusion features a barrage of drums almost as if they were making up for the tracks calm and subtle opening. After a sparsely populated opening section Chambre d’Echo moves into full on uptempo drum track before culminating in what sounds like a glockenspiel sequence. Album closer Marie is an avant garde dark ambient masterpiece with understated drumming and a host of unsettling electronic drones. This is one of my favourites on the album and would perfectly on the score of an arthouse horror movie, something akin to David Lynch’s work.
Overall. Una Volta is a diverse, interesting and satisfying listen. Some tracks (Drones and Piles, Kraut and Piles and Marie) truly stand out as favourites, but there is nothing to dislike here. Decay and Chambre d’Echo are perhaps a little weaker than the rest but they are still very listenable tracks. If you can get hold of the CD it is worth it for the packaging and the lovely art book, but anyone with a love of Can, and avant garde jazz drumming should find plenty here to love.Darren Charles