Guapo

Five Suns

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The British band Guapo has previously recorded and performed as a duo -- Matt Thompson on bass, Dave Smith on drums -- with various guest artists summoned when the need arose to flesh out their sound. More recently, keyboardist Daniel O'Sullivan has been a third group member, and his continued presence on several recent recordings suggests that Guapo may have evolved into a working trio. One of Guapo's dominant early influences was the French group Magma, with its aggressive synthesis of jazz and prog rock. (A 1998 Guapo EP, Guapo vs. Magma, both emulates and deconstructs the Magma sound.) Guapo's penchant for sonic hijinks has often propelled them into the more experimental stylistic territory of cut 'n' paste audio collage, improv noise metal, and/or claustrophobic, demon-spawn dronescapes. However, on this relatively civilized and even arguably retro CD, Thompson respectfully captures the heavy so-called Zeuhl-style bass of Magma and its derivatives, while Smith's high-energy drumming straddles the line between jazz and rock in the manner of celebrated Magma drummer and leader Christian Vander. Thompson also switches to howling space guitar on occasion, and he and O'Sullivan use electronics to give certain pieces a sci-fi quality that might evoke memories of vintage Hawkwind for some graying listeners. The title piece, in five sections, occupies almost the first 47 minutes of the recording, and its aura of brooding melancholy might also turn the listener's mind to thoughts of early King Crimson or perhaps Univers Zero, as well as Magma. O'Sullivan's keyboard arsenal includes everything from Mellotron and organ to Fender Rhodes electric piano, and while his heavy block chords help to create the thick, ominous textures that dominate this CD, his more delicate use of the electric piano on the last piece, "Topan," introduces a lighter, jazzier feel. Not an experimental CD by any stretch of the imagination, this is nonetheless a solid piece of work.

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