Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Guapo - Five Suns

Five Suns

Released 2004 on Cuneiform Records
Reviewed by Jim Tones, 01/03/2004ce


Daniel O'Sullivan: Fender Rhodes, Organ, Mellotron, Harmonium, Guitar, Electronics.

Dave Smith: Drums, Percussion.

Matt Thompson: Bass, Guitar, Electronics.

Although a fresh release at the time of typing this review and their first release on the remarkable Cuneiform label, I was (very) lucky enough to get a pre-release back in september of last year.
Having been awestruck by two other albums by them, I was wondering what sonic installments I was to be greeted with: "more of the same wonderful material" ....thought I.......

This release picked me up and threw my brain around the room! They have certainly gone up a further notch or three on the intensity scale with this disc.
New(ish) member Daniel O'Sullivan has really made Guapo even more of a tour de force than on previous recordings and the three of them merge together to present a cerberus of the senses!

When the 'Prog' word is mentioned, some people imagine albums full of noodling, cover art depicting mushroom shaped landscapes together with the usual flying fish and lyrics about some underwater sea-god while a Rickenbacker Bass fights it out with a 70-piece drum-kit and a man with too many Keyboards dons a floor kissing cape.

Not here!

This is muscular music that even the most anti-Progger could not fail to be seduced by, with it's ferocity and real live wire activity.

The title track sets the ball rolling and boy does it roll- smashing all in it's path , all 46 minutes of it, split into 5 parts (hey! one for each sun).
A Gong is struck forth which reminded me of the opening to the Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Between Nothingness and Eternity" -a cerebral live album, but where there was flash soloing and way too many notes (as exhilarating as the M.O. were in their day), this relies on that atmosphere of intensity which Guapo serve up so well and is one of those great builds ups to end all build ups, for the moment anyway...

It almost engulfs your every cell (headphones are a must for this-as always), until the track splinters out via some digital manipulation similar to what the Boredoms are fond of using now and again, to shape their playing when they are locked into overdrive and Yes!- I did leap up and think my CD player was going to spontaneously combust.

'Part Two' is a real exercise in rifferama as the Mellotron and Rhodes peak through over Thompson's urgent Bass and Smith's sterling Snare Drum assaults.
This is a really cinematic track and although it's become a cliche to say the usual- "sountrack to a film that has not been made", it really does sound like they've been asked to deliver the goods. This is 'Ben Hur' directed by David Lynch!
The track ends or rather glues onto 'Part Three' with some Guitar sounds that remind me of This Heat and the way they used to really toy with the notion of what a 'solo' is supposed to be- a colouration and not an ostentation.

There is a small section in 'Part Three' which sounds like King Crimson's majestic coda in their track 'Starless' from the 'Red' album, only the essence is multiplied threefold.
I'm overdosing on references here, I know, but every group is obviously influenced by past/present groups, but Guapo seem to take these influences in and it gets merged with their own hyperactive and creative flair, presenting something with an altogether different angle from what they've ingested in their youth.

The Keyboards just hover so well above Smith & Thompson's (or is it Smith & Wesson's?) 'shit off a shovel' shoot outs.
'Part Four' has another great build up from a ringing Guitar Loop and tremolo Electronics which slide into the familiar rifferama theme thrashed out earlier.

'Part Five' sees this extraordinary track brushing the final 'sun', as it were, back over the horizon with a brilliant Organ Drone which fuses with a Gong and Guitar hum.

Now this is what really made me smile- there are 8 tracks that flash up on the CD display, 5 of which are for the aforementioned segments to 'Five Suns', track 6 is a one minute silence, so you can dust yourselve down and put the kettle on- nice move!
I bet they bloody slept well after finishing the recording of that first track.

'Mictlan' is similar in structure to some tracks found on their previous albums, but it's the Keyboards which beef up the structures but never spill over into 'overplayed' or 'over-emphasised', the balance is perfect.
My only gripe here is that there is a Mellotron Flute sound which shows up and should have stayed a bit longer- I'm NOT complaining! It's just that I do like a Mellotron Flute sound from time to time.

'Topan' is a medium paced track which centres around some lightly chimed Electric Piano and shows that these people can easily make a mark with whatever tempo or wash of mood that takes them.

Genres are sometimes horrible things to paste up on people's creativity, but for reference purposes, if you like the broad expanse that is sometimes called 'modern japanese prog', the twist on genres of the likes of "Kohntarkosz"-era Magma or if you used to listen to, or have just heard some of the early and mid-70s Crimson material and liked the dark ,brooding and crashing instrumental segments, while not caring for the soft ballads, then you'll CERTAINLY like to add this CD to your collection.

If you are after an alternative to what you normally listen to- and it has not been mentioned in the above review-
Take the plunge or better still......... see them live.

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