Sunday, March 24, 2013

Guapo—History of the Visitation (Cuneiform)

This is a welcome return for a band that made a huge impact on me with their Five Suns album in 2004. Their music was raw, unapologetically bombastic and disturbing. Having been primed by exposure to Univers Zero, Present, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the British instrumental trio aligned with what I was seeking at the time. Guapo’s next two albums completed a loose trilogy, and although each of them was superb in their own right, after the final album, Elixirs, came out I thought I could hear the band’s constitution beginning to fray. They’d been reduced to two core members, and the album sounded like a band searching for direction. It’s still a fascinating listen—I heard it in a record store last summer and was reminded how good it actually was.

This is a short but nevertheless eventful and satisfying album. The band’s current lineup, which includes new keyboardist Emmett Elvin and has guitarist Kavus Torabi taking a more prominent role, easily maintains that dark Guapo power. At 26 minutes, opening track “The Pilman Radiant” dwarfs its successors. One of its most outstanding qualities is that it doesn’t feel that long. It has remarkable time-compressing qualities, maybe because it achieves a dreamlike state at several points, beginning with an extended orchestrated drone, then moving along to a somewhat macabre groove halfway through, where the swirling mix of instruments contributes to the hall of mirrors effect. Even at its most raucous, the song has an elegant flow that helps insinuate itself into the subconscious. “Complex #7” is the creepy comedown, a collection of drips and scrapes against a background hum. “Tremors From the Future” releases the tension with its shimmering pulsations and celebratory guitar slashes. You’re never quite sure which tangent it’s going to follow. The pace never slackens, though, as it shifts from thing to thing and drives towards a frenzied peak.

But that’s not all! The band and Cuneiform Records have teamed up to add a companion DVD to this handsome set. Featuring two tracks, it’s definitely a treat for fans who haven’t a hope of seeing them live. The rendition of “Five Suns” from NEARfest 2006 is pretty amazing. It’s a multi-camera shoot presented in beautiful B&W that captures this eerie epic perfectly. I won’t spoil everything that happens during the song; suffice to say that Guapo are a band that cares how they present themselves on stage, and knows how to create a memorable experience for the audience. “King Lindorm” is a simple one-camera colour presentation from Rock In Opposition 2007 that again emphasises what a powerful live act they are.

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