Saturday, April 05, 2008

Guapo—Elixirs (Neurot)
Elixirs has some unexpected twists and tangents. The British outfit’s previous two albums, Five Suns (Cuneiform) and Black Oni (Ipecac), which formed the first two chapters of a trilogy (a notion that the band likes to downplay because of its obvious prog-cliché nature), were steeped in aggressive complexity in the tradition of King Crimson and Magma and full of eerie, muscular music. Elixirs eases off to an extent that’s immediately apparent, and incorporates a lot more guitar work, vocals, and varied percussion. Overall, though, they haven’t changed their style all that much; they’ve just tweaked some of the dynamics and shading. A track like the opener “Jeweled Turtle” shows a lot of restraint over its nine minutes of simmering menace. Compared to Five Suns, where every lull led to an explosion, this piece refuses to pander to that expectation. “Arthur, Elsie and Frances” returns to the jagged rhythms and dynamics that abounded on earlier albums, but with a little less aggression than before. “King Lindorm,” the closing epic track, contains some of the most exciting passages on the album, with a compellingly slow buildup over a repetitive but complex piano figure and a satisfyingly weighty release at its climax. A pair of very interesting tracks occupy the middle of the album. “The Heliotrope” and “The Selenotrope” were previously released (as instrumentals) as the Twisted Stems EP and are a kind of yin/yang pairing, one with male vocals (by Alexander Tucker), one with female vocals (from Jarboe, who’s keeping pretty busy these days); one in a minor key, one in a major key. Both are very much in the vein of recent Ulver or old Brian Eno—sparse late-night ballads in no hurry to get anywhere. Elixirs doesn’t end the trilogy with a bang, but not quite a whimper either. If you’re already a fan, you won’t mind at all.

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