(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Towers Open Fire (1997), 6/10
Hirohito (1998), 6/10
Death Seed (1999), 5/10
Great Sage (2001), 6.5/10
The Ducks and the Drakes (2003), 5/10
Five Suns (2004) , 7/10
Black Oni (2005), 5.5/10
Elixirs (2008), 6/10
History Of The Visitation (2013), 5/10
Obscure Knowledge (2015), 6/10

Guapo is a London-based trio (formed by guitarist and bassist Matt Thompson and drummer Dave Smith) that belongs to the tradition of pompous, symphonic progressive-rock (early King Crimson, Univers Zero). They debuted (as a duo) with singles in a noise-jazz vein but turned to more organic suites and jamming on their first album, Towers Open Fire (Power Tool, 1997).

Hirohito (Pandemonium, 1998) added samplers and electronics to the trio's arsenal, but Death Seed (1999) with Ruins, Great Sage (Tumult, 2001), still influenced by Ruins and including the 16-minute epic El Topo, and The Ducks and the Drakes (2003), a split with Cerberus Shoal, returned to a rock format.

Their fifth album, Five Suns (Cuneiform, 2004), adding Daniel O'Sullivan on keyboards, marks a quantum leap forward. The centerpiece is the five-part 46-minute suite Five Suns, which begins with a rather noisy and massive overture. The second movement is basically a funeral march adorned with hypnotic organ figures. Its variations create elegant and robust tonal music, halfway between Colosseum's Valentyne Suite and the Soft Machine's third album, save that in its second part the melodrama doubles in emphasis, reaching an apex of emotional and sonic intensity in the third movement's majestic crescendo, broken by a liquid organ solo that leads in turn to a convoluted and frantic group jamming and to a coda tinged with exotic overtones. The fourth movement indulges a bit too much into some noisy instrumental doodling that, after six minutes, unveils a Doors-like melodic motif. The locomotive-like rhythm resumes its race and leads to another apotheosis. The fifth movement is also largely a soundscape rather than a narrative theme.
The other two compositions, the nine-minute Mictlan and the six-minute Topan, suffer from the same vice of repetition and inconclusiveness.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Paolo Latini)

Guapo è un trio di Londra (formati dal chitarrista e bassista Matt Thompson e dal batterista Dave Smith) che segue la tradizione del pomposo prog-rock sinfonico (primi King Crimson, Univers Zero). Il loro debutto è avvenuto con singoli di stampo noise-jazz, ma si sono rivolti verso suite e jams più organiche già nel loro primo album, Towers Open Fire (Power Tool, 1997).

Hirohito (Pandemonium, 1998) aggiunge samplers e elettronica all'arsenale del trio, ma con Death Seed (1999) con Ruins, Great Sage (Tumult, 2001), e The Ducks and the Drakes (2003), con i Cerberus Shoal, ritornano al formato rock.

Il loro quinto album, Five Suns (Cuneiform, 2004), che presenta Daniel O'Sullivan alle tastiere, segna uno scarto quantico in avanti. Il baricentro è la suite di 46 minuti (!) in cinque parti Five Suns, che comincia con un'overture piuttosto rumorosa. Il secondo movimento è fondamentalmente una marcia funebre adornata con ipnotiche figure di organo. Le sue variazioni creano un'elegante e robusta musica tonale, a metà strada tra i Colosseum di Valentyne Suite e i Soft Machine del terzo album, quinid il melodramma raddoppia in enfasi, raggiungendo un apice di intensità sonica ed emozionale nel maestoso crescendo del terzo movimento, rotto da un liquido assolo di organo che fa da guida sia ad una frenetica jamming di gruppo e ad una coda tinta di overtoni esotici. Il quarto movimento insiste un po' troppo in rumorosi ghirigori strumentali che, dopo sei minuti, disvelano un motivo melodico Doors-iano. La ritmica riacquista la sua velocità da locomotiva e sfocia in un'altra apoteosi. Il quinto movimento è più un paesaggio sonoro che un tema narrativo definito.
Le altre due tracce, Mictlan (nove minuti) e Topan (sei minuti), mostrano il solito vizio di ripetizione e inconclusività.

The gloomy Black Oni (Ipecac, 2005 - Hlava, 2008), in five unnamed movements, is vastly inferior to Five Suns, If they tried to make a gothic album, they failed. If they tried to make something else, it is hard to figure out what. This is mostly a concentrate of prog-rock cliches by musicians in a bad mood.

The EP Twisted Stems (Aurora Borealis, 2006), performed by the duo of David Smith on percussion and Daniel O'Sullivan on keyboards, guitar and bass, offered a gentle twist to Guapo's convoluted soundscape. An expanded version of the piece forms the backbone of Elixirs (Neurot, 2008), that also includes the stately Jeweled Turtle (13:09) and King Lindorm (15:40), the convoluted piece that most closely resembles the sound of Five Suns. However, Arthur Elsie And Frances (10:53) is typical of the messy pastiches that prevailed on Black Oni.

David Smith is also active as Miasma & The Carousel Of Dead Horses, that released Perils (Web of Mimicry, 2005) and Manfauna (Latitudes 0:14) (Southern, 2007), as well as The Stargazer's Assistant, that released the much more abstract The Other Side Of The Island (Aurora Borealis, 2008) and Shivers and Voids (Aurora Borealis, 2008). O'Sullivan also performs in Miasma & The Carousel Of Dead Horses,

Matt Thompson started the project Rashomon with The Ruined Map (Film Music Volume 1) (Mirrors, 2008).

Daniel O'Sullivan and Alxeander Tucker formed Grumbling Fur.

Guapo's History Of The Visitation (Cuneiform, 2013), featuring new member Emmett Elvin on keyboards, as well as veteran Kavus Torabi (second guitarist of the Cardiacs since 2003 and previously co-founder of English math-rock pioneers Monsoon Bassoon that released I Dig Your Voodoo in 1999) and bassist James Sedwards (whose Nought had released the wildly experimental Nought in 2000), contains the 26-minute The Pilman Radiant and the 11-minute Tremors From The Future. The five-movement Pilman Radiant begins with an apocalyptic repetitive symphonic overture and later continues to rely heavily on repetition during its dark-tinged progress, even when the fourth movement briefly merges atonal and metal music. Mostly it sounds like a Glenn Branca piece performed by Metallica. Unfortunately there is little more than pomp and repetition to justify the duration of the piece. With less melodrama and more verve Tremors From The Future is a more traditional prog-rock jam with some truly contagious rhythmic fever (just before the lame ending). The companion DVD contains a live performance of Five Suns.

Obscure Knowledge (Cuneiform, 2015), made by the same quartet of Smith (drums), Elvin (keyboards), Sedwards (bass) and Torabi (guitar), contains a 43-minute piece in three movements. The playing is vibrant and competent as usual, and the veterans certainly have a lot of fun counterpointing each other, but in the end this is a morbid intellectual exercise that mostly appeals to professional musicians. The music flows more organic and spontaneous than in Visitation.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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