Guapo - Elixirs
Neurot Recordings
Progressive Rock, Jazz
6 songs (58:12)
Release year: 2008
Guapo, Neurot Recordings
Reviewed by Goat

Few will have heard of Guapo, the British Zeuhl/RIO (Rock In Opposition) ensemble that twists Larks’ Tongues In Aspic-era King Crimson into their own brand of Jazz/Prog. It’s a real shame, too, because the sound that the band has developed over the past few albums has become increasingly unique, sure to appeal to a variety of experimentalists. Progheads will dig the Magma and Popol Vuh influence, Jazzniks will love the Miles Davis – it has something for everyone. Well, not quite everyone – if you’re not used to experimental music of this sort then Elixirs (the band’s ninth album) will leave you with a severely scratched head.

Whilst earlier releases from the band, like my personal favourite 2004’s Five Suns, built up into a demented epic chaos, and 2005’s Black Oni took that style and gave it an Avant-Garde, Jazzy twist, Elixirs strips everything down, highlighting the ambience. There’s even some recent-Ulveresque chanted singing on Twisted Stems: The Heliotrope, the first time that I can remember Guapo using vocals at all. Not that the music suffers for lack of vocals – the band are masterly at keeping your attention, whether it’s the Eastern style of the closing half of opening track Jewelled Turtle or the strident percussion of Arthur, Elsie And Frances. Twisted Stems: The Selenotrope has some very disconnected, dreamy female vocals that are reminiscent of Jarboe at her most drugged-out, whilst closing piece King Lindorm takes the subtle path, ceremonial gongs frequently ringing out as things gradually get weirder and weirder…

This is pretty hypnotic stuff, all in all, subtle repetitions drawing you in without boring you, and the more you listen the catchier it gets, with plenty of excellent musicianship that’s sure to catch the ears of discerning listeners. Guapo are at present a duo, David J. Smith on drums and percussion and Daniel O’Sullivan (also a live member of Sunn O)))) on everything else – Rhodes organ, piano, bass, guitars, Harmonium, synths, Autoharp, vocals and electronics. Both are little short of wonderful, Smith capable of a variety of styles from straight Rock beats to Jazz subtlety, and O’Sullivan simply amazing, master of everything he puts his hand to.

Sadly, it’s virtually impossible to get hold of Guapo’s first five releases, as they were all released on small, underground labels. Five Suns and Black Oni, however, released on Cuneiform and Ipecac respectively, should be much easier to hunt down, and are more than worth the effort. Elixirs, as the final part of a trilogy, is an excellent album, and opens the doors to yet more genius from this great band.

Killing Songs :
Album as a whole
Goat quoted 88 / 100
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