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Guapo - Black Oni CD (album) cover

BLACK ONI

Guapo

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.94 | 63 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Only one year after their incendiary 5 Suns, Guapo released yet another top-notch, red hot catalogue of modern zheul music: Black Oni. The family resemb˝ance is clearly there, but this is no facsimile of the previous album. On the contrary, Guapo manages to keep its core essence intact while redefining it in a different performative strategy, one that relies more on subtlety and controlled tension. O'Sullivan, Thompson and Smith decice to slow down the fire a bit (just a bit) and include some post-rock inspired sonorities through the instrumental expansions. Simultaneously, the group's sound bears a more robust feel, which is mainly due to the fact that the guitar has a stronger presence in the mix - there are passages in which Guapo looks determined to experiment with the standards of heavy prog. The opener kicks off with a foggy texture that gradually lets go of a punchy motif not exempted of a certain catchiness, solidly build up through the jam. This track's structure is evidently introductory, since it gives the impression that something else is on its way but is not going to happen in this same track. It will happen in Part II, which includes the first set of various successive motifs. The recurrent ones set the nucleus of integrity for the whole piece. The band's sonic power is in full swing, at times quite explicitly, other times constrained to a certain degree: everything is kept under tight control in the expansions of the musical ideas. Part III kicks off with pieano flows that sound like Magma-meets-Philip Glass. The basic 3/4 tempo is taken away by the full band before the arrival of minute 4, which is when the basic tempo is transformed into a 2/2 pace: the band displays a combination of De Futura-era Magma and Matching Mole, particularly in the jazzier moments. When things reach their darkest point, Guapo shows some inheritance from Present. The segued Part IV follows, getting started with alleatory sounds based on the musique concrete ideology. The typical RIO neurosis comes to the fore during the most disturbing moments of this schemeless travel, especially the creepy ambiences displayed on the harmonium layers (a parallel with Popol Vuh's soundtrack to Nosferatu comes to my mind whenever I listen to this section). No doubt that the band is, at this point, radiantly focused on the darkest side of their musical vision and there's no turning back. With the arrival of the last track, Part V, the horror is replaced by a weird sense of colorfulness. But of course, this is Guapo that we're talking about, so this atmosphere is merely momentary. Tension and paranoia are the most recurrent facets of Guapo's music, and this track is no exception to this rule. At a crucial moment, the sense of terror is delivered in a pompous fashion, like the sun that appears in the sky of a doomed day so the horrors to come can be seen in all their glory. The expectation motivated by the martial cadence of the drum kit and the overwhelming keyboard layers serves as a solid rhythmic foundation for the overall instrumentation. There is no rush here, since the tempo is kept at a relatively slow pace, but definitely there is menace in the air, a menace that we can't escape from no matter how fast we try to run. In fact, things get really ethereal for the languid last section, unabashedly flirting with the post-rock standard but keeping away from spiritual moods: it's more as if the menace had taken place at last, leaving the landscape still in the quiet. This is a very effective way to end Black Oni, one of the best Guapo efforts ever.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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