[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(62 min, Cuneiform)
TRACK LIST: 1-6. Five Suns 46: 34 7. Mictlan 8: 58 8. Topan 6: 37 All tracks: by Guapo. Produced by Guapo. LINEUP: Daniel O'Sullivan - piano, organ, mellotron, harmonium; guitar Matt Thompson - bass, guitar; synthesizers Dave Smith - drums & percussion
Prolusion. England's GUAPO will celebrate their tenth anniversary this year. The band's discography comprises one split EP and six full-length studio albums: "Towers Open Fire" (1997), "Hirohito" (1998), "Death Seed" (2000), "Great Sage - Equal of Heaven" (2001), "Five Suns" (2004) and "Black Oni" (2005), which was issued just recently. The hero of this review, "Five Suns", is the one the band released through Cuneiform Records and is my first acquaintance with their creation.
Analysis. Any piece of Art, in a broad sense, is marked with a distinct sign of professionalism, at least. This is an axiom. However, not every artist (or, not always an artist) is able to create a masterwork. Such a task demands not only some special knowledge and mastery, but also inspiration, the lack of which, in my view, is the main problem of this album. "Five Suns" features three instrumental compositions, the first of which is divided into six sub-sections fluidly flowing from one into another. The meditative-like atmospheric beginning of the title track's first part slowly transforms into the mysterious, intense and anxious music. The emotional tension grows steadily; the sound is getting more and more denser, the timbre shades become more and more thick. Closer to the finale, the apotheosis of dark and commotion restrains and shatters everything light and positive, not giving the timid, immature listener any hope. Quite the contrary, most of the experimented Prog-lovers, especially those liking extreme moods in music, will be pleasantly surprised with the first part of the album's title track, which is RIO, in its darkest manifestation, blended with elements of Zeuhl, Noise Rock and some others, and is a gem. After hearing Part I you'll be expecting more adventuresome music. Alas, the running start didn't get a proper continuation on the further parts of the epic, each featuring a lot of expressionless, busily monotonous and just incomplete arrangements. The second section abounds repetitions and has a strong cinematic sense. Soundtrack would be the best definition for it. There are some interesting moments on Part III, even though they're derived from King Crimson, circa "Starless" and "Red", but most of it is about a quiet Jazz-Fusion. The most inexpressive are the last two parts. With boringly droning synthesizer passages, electronics and the like trash at the fore, they are deprived of any development and are free of any emotions. When listening to these, I had a thought that Mr. O'Sullivan, who appears as a guitarist and keyboardist at once, just doesn't hold down his task, and the trio urgently needs another musician. It's hard to perceive the fifth section differently than as an intro to the sixth one, which is just the sound of silence. I see I've given the best possible definition to the ending of the epic, which is so much over-extended and has a really dull 'coda'. Viewed as a separate composition, Mictlan would be the best track here. This is a gloomy, yet, diverse and dynamic, finely arranged Zeuhl. The music on the last and the shortest composition, Topan, is built around the light passages of electric piano. This track isn't bad, but is over-extended even for its 6+ minutes. It would've been better had it been twice as short as it is.
Conclusion. Some progressive reviewers are inclined to put Guapo on par with King Crimson and Univers Zero, amongst some other titanic bands, which, in my honest opinion, is absolutely groundless. When building the avant-garde structures, Mr. Fripp and his fellows never lose the sense of proportion and never forget melody. The Belgians, in their numerous 'basso ostinatos', always use a powerful polyphony and a rapid, effervescent development. While neither the former nor the latter quality is typical for most of the music on "Five Suns", the aforementioned comparison sounds like an attempt to equalize a bicycle with a tank.
VM: March 21, 2005
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]