Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Guapo - Great Sage, Equal Of Heaven

Great Sage, Equal Of Heaven

Released 2001 on Pandemonium / tUMULt
Reviewed by Jim Tones, 16/11/2003ce

Guapo were formed in London in 1994 and consist of the talented core tandem of Matt Thompson (Bass Guitar, Guitar, Electronics) and Dave Smith (Drums, Percussives) who are then joined on each recorded release and live performance by some excellent guest players.

An early release entitled "Guapo vs Magma" and a collaboration with Ruins ("Death Seed" on Freeland Records) indicate the territories they explore and also carve out themselves.

A joint release between the french Pandemonium and californian tUMULt labels, this 2001 release powers up with...
"Mountain of the Five Elements"- as human driven metronomic percussion and solemn Bass make a great build up as low Moog notes filter in until half-way through a tinge of Mellotron adds to the mood (the Synthesizer and Mellotron are played by Matt's brother Andy), until the track ends with a string bending finale, a superb opener indeed, then....

"Blessed Albania"- jumps out of the speakers and assaults your senses with it's spasmodic whirling dervish tune cycles, an insane tarantella dance where they are joined by Saxophonist Caroline Kraabel (ex-Honkies) before some great stop-start moments and Sax honks- brilliant stuff!

"Zero For Conduct"- continues with the frenetic pace and is a fine example of Dave Smith's octopus drumming- sheesh- those drum skins are as tight as any crabs' ass!!

This music really matches the strange front cover art as well which words cannot explain, except that I can't wait for the hologram version of the album come 2015!

"Five Cornered Square"- is really Bass heavy and also include's some subtle Guitar blocks which puntuate rather than overtake, while the Reeds spring forth, giving this track a strong flavour of John Zorn's Painkiller.......then...BANG!...

....as we're into "Ten Years of Heisei"- which explodes headlong due to the compression of all the sounds, a must for headphones and clocking in at about 74 seconds, this would be a great thing to wake you up in the morning, we're talking six shredded wheat here and a more than a healthy splash of cold water on yer boat...

"Sakura"- Millitary style call and response between Bass and Percussives with the Reeds riding on the top- this is Guapo driving the stakes in and mapping out their territory before observing enemy lines, while a battery of Bass tones accompany an enlightening Keyboard drone peeking through...

"Perfect Blue"- is a slow waltz (!) with yearning phrases from the Saxes- there are little bits of this album that also remind me of Henry Cow, another outfit (although from yesteryear) who didn't 'seem' to be british as they soaked up the more underground influences from abroad, the difference being of course, that Guapo obtain a more urgent feel due to their operation being stripped down and less complicated.

"El Topo"- is the icing on the cake here and a 16 minute epic!
Strident Bass and confident Drums cajole a returning theme similar to the album's opening track.
Thompson and Smith are so 'tuned in' to their vision, you can just put this album on repeat and not tire of it, in fact, a good recommendation, as these are great tracks to have stuck in your head to aid a mundane day at work or to help you along an arduous journey.
The way they control the build up is so good before there are some wavering sawtooth Synth spirits and some chewed and spat processed strings- is it Bass Guitar or 6 string ?, such is the marvel of the melding.

I saw Guapo live in 2002, one hot june night at manchester's Star & Garter venue, where they were augmented by the mysterious (and very tall) figure of one Daniel O'Sullivan on Organ. They were supporting finnish psych riffers Circle and although I like these folks, I must admit that the Guapo men blew them off the stage.
It was a fantastic set, a joy to behold with Matt Thompson making his rotating Bass loops and harmonising lines, O'Sullivan's keyboard colourations filling the air whilst Dave Smith's flailing arms (and facial expressions) attacked his long suffering drumkit.
Such a spectacle to see!
I cannot recommend them enough...

Certainly one of the UK's best kept secrets.

More Info: http://www.guapo.co.uk

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