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The Gourishankar - 2nd Hands CD (album) cover

2ND HANDS

The Gourishankar

 

Eclectic Prog

3.95 | 142 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
5 stars These Ain't No Rurals from the Urals

Why the insufferably wet and empty Dream Theater (sic) are mentioned so often in previous reviews escapes me. The latter are but a war crime against blank manuscript paper and if progressive metal is malleable enough for a football analogy, represent a gritty defensive Chelsea, while the Gourishankar must surely embody the free flowing and silky high tempo attacking soccer of Arsenal. (How ironic that the former are wholly owned by a Russian billionaire but considerably less so that their nickname is the Pensioners).

Such is the wide diversity of stylistic sources assimilated by these Soviets, that even in a fudged east-west translation, this heady pot pourri need not be subject to cross-border controls. We meet here on 2nd Hands nothing less than the invigorating fresh smell of disinfectant to rid the prog world of its stale odour of perpetual decay.

It's the welding of electronic dance techniques to challenging rock music that make The Gourishankar so unique and innovative. Although Porcupine Tree dallied with such a hybrid on some of their earlier output eg The Sky Moves Sideways, the results were often a diluted cocktail which I find less than intoxicating.

Moon7 - Even a quartet as illustrious as Al Di Meola, Danny Carey, William Orbit and Keith Emerson would be at a loss to come up with anything approaching this: Karn Evil 10 anyone? Jaw-droppingly good and almost borderline bi-polar in construction. I really wasn't prepared in the least for this and it's astonishing that writing this episodic and tangential can achieve structural rigour on such a scale. There are traces of Porcupine Tree in the guttural riffing and nonchalant transitions to poppier lyrical territory, Depeche Mode in the electronic viscera that pulses beneath the ribcage, Gentle Giant at their most wantonly abstruse and ELP at their most inspired. Around the world in 80 bars including a cruise to Latin America together with even more hooks than an amputee pirates convention. The haunting celtic tinged violin on Moon7 always brings a tear to this grudging Scottish lemming's eye. If instrumental rock music is ever gonna go anywhere, then it could do a lot worse that hail this particular taxi.

Endless Drama - Never was a track so aptly named. A sleek and shiny pop exterior, but under the hood lurks a sly and sneaky groove in seven that avoids the inevitable listener fatigue of so much dance vocabulary from being trapped in a prosody of its own cyclic limitations. They even throw in a sprinkling of Porcupine Tree and (cough) Dream Theater here and there as if the message weren't clear enough: This is ROCK music that utilises dance ingredients appropriate to the sensibilities of its creators.

Queer Forest - A nod in the direction of Rush and their crunchy six string before we are regaled with a superb melody that will nag you incessantly forever hence. Features a glimpse of a shimmering and modulated guitar sound that even Robert Smith of the Cure would drool over. Has more meter changes tempo hikes, key modulations and sadistic unison passages than could be considered healthy for any god-fearing mammal.

Taste a Cake - Short and delightful piano waltz interlude featuring some subtly wry viola gravitas in the rear courtesy of Vladimir Rastorguev.

The Inexpressible Chagrin - (although the Gourishankar attempt to) Word to the wise lads, don't leave yourselves vulnerable to self fulfilling prophecies next time eh? A boiling and crackling interior not dissimilar to Depeche Mode with the improbably named Cat Heady lending an adroit paw at infusing sequenced synth parts with a suitably feline playfulness. Comrade Heady appears to be the author of the many slinky drum loops and bleepy percussion that percolates throughout this album and has electronic batterie ever sounded this organic?. I particularly like the singer's voice on Chagrin and Vlad MJ Whiner (you gotta love that handle) betrays no trace of an eastern European accent at any point. (Is he really a Ruskie then?) The main hook here is a delicious and irresistible synth motif which is deserving of industrial strength cuddles. Wonderful stuff. Nomy Agranson contributes a lovely weeping and throaty guitar solo redolent of some of Camel's better moments and the exquisite sax timbre from Dmitry Ulyashev is just tear welling joy. If that were not sufficient for you greedy critters then check out the capricious bubbling sequencer broth buried underneath and just luxuriate in the whole spiffy thang. Towards the close Ulyashev appears on breathy flute and the effect is such that the historical and contemporary do not collide, they EMBRACE. This might serve as an epithet for the whole undertaking.

Syx - Pizzicato strings on a jesting waltz plus a sturdy main theme stated on violin that shades itself in the awning provided by a looming Gentle Giant on the horizon. GG are a palpable influence here and the impression is reinforced with some jazzy medieval sax and clanging over-driven guitar chords. There are some beautiful analogue synth textures under the fingers of Doran Usher on Syx and the playing, interaction and articulation is stellar top drawer by all concerned. I always thought that Danny Carey was the best modern drummer I had ever heard (in probably the worst modern band) but this Heady Cat seems to possess an independence of four limbs that would put a spider's personal trainer to shame. There are some comedic 'slurping' synth patches that imitate Kraftwerk in places but rest easy, there ain't any of that Teutonic we make better robots than we do people malarkey here thank you very much. The sleeve neglects to advise me who plays the bass on 2nd Hands but whoever he/she/they may be, boy do they have a sumptuous and taut bottom end.

-(sigh)...Oh do grow up dear you're not a giggling schoolboy any more... -

- Sorry hun -

Special praise must go to the producer or engineer who preserved the natural timbres and dynamic colours of Cat's acoustic drum kit as this is notoriously hard to do when there is a welter of competing frequency band 'stealers' in the shape of guitars, keys, brass, vocals etc so the light and shade we get to enjoy in Heady's magnificent performance is to be marvelled at.

The detours and resulting scenery are uncanny. One minute a Bossa Nova groove with fusion sourced devilment then the next, a reggae skank as if attempted by a Mexican Happy the Man tribute band (I ain't kidding, much) Rippling piano and yearning violin again threatens to turn on the lemming waterworks during the closing reprise of the waltz rhythm, but this time revisited with a wistful remorse.

End - Squirted liquid synth fades in and the feel is Martian electronic wedding march music? Once again the crafty irregular meter avoids the wearying monotony of this habitually hypnotic style and the band segues miraculously into a rousing verse and gloriously unforgettable chorus. Gawd I adore this record. There is a smidgen of UK's excellent debut album herein, particularly when the violin duets or harmonises with the lead synth and more yummy high cholesterol modulated guitar arpeggios redolent of Durutti Column. If rock and dance make strange bedfellows, this is a porn flick starring William Orbit and the entire female cast of Hair

Marvelous Choice - Quotes from the 'drum and bass' dance genre on the intro but nothing could surprise me any longer and some of the instrumentation and mood mirrors that of Melancholia era Inquire. I am sure Happy the Man would sanction a nod of approval to the implied harmonic device of predominantly arpeggiated accompaniment. Another memorable vocal melody framed in piano and joined by haunting strings and searing but subtle guitar. Almost akin to Wes Montgomery/George Benson guitar octaves on the jazzy bridge (if there is such a conventional beastie on this creation, more likely an interlocking network of Escher overhead tunnels). Next up, what happened if Mavis Bacon had played the organ on Tarkus? and this lengthy finale is truly symphonic in the strictest use of that term. In places it consigns most Philharmonics to tinny and cissy skiffle bands by comparison. Fades hypnotically to the end with what sounds like Mongolian throat singers put through a vocoder?

Very difficult to describe this band without coming across all girly gushy swoony : A UK Gentle Giant astride a Camel feeding from a Porcupine Tree? (even flippancy just doesn't do them justice, as the foregoing are starting points not destinations and no, the Gourishankar ain't Soviet rhyming slang)

Given the dearth of genuinely innovative progressive music being created right now, the Gourishankar must at least represent what the future might hold and I for one am really excited by this and just hope more of you can get to hear what is a noughties masterpiece. No contest.

ExittheLemming | 5/5 |

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