Thursday, September 10, 2015

Guapo—Obscure Knowledge (Cuneiform)

Obscure Knowledge maintains Guapo’s penchant for sinister splendour. The UK quartet mix genuine tunefulness with discord and drone, never shying away from unexpected transitions or joyous bombast. They always maintain a balance between psychedelic repetition and steady development during a piece of music. They’ll get stuck into a particular groove and then blow it apart at just the right time. Coming along relatively quickly after 2013’s History of the Visitation, Obscure Knowledge at first feels like the previous album’s close relative. They’re practically twins, if you just compare the track lengths: starting with a long 'un, followed by a brief, more abstract linking track, and ending with a mid-length track. Both albums are 42 minutes long. Uncanny! I don’t know whether this is coincidence or by design, and ultimately I don’t care. They definitely haven’t written the same album again. The tracks all cross-fade into each other, and a musical motif or two repeats from track one to track three, making the album a seamless listen if you so desire. (The album's press releases emphasizes that the album is in fact a single track indexed into three sections.) Obscure Knowledge sounds more assertive than its predecessor. Slashing, discordant moments abound. Guitarist Kavus Torabi gets in some screaming leads during the first few minutes of the untitled opener. Drummer David J Smith skitters around his kit with a more orchestral approach than the usual rock drummer. When he drops into a beat in the last few minutes of the opening section, its grounding effect is all the more pronounced. Since denting my brain with Five Suns (over 10 years ago!), Guapo are still the archetypal “heavy prog” band in my mind. Nobody that I’m aware of does what they do. Every release is a major event, and Obscure Knowledge is another album worth studying and savouring.