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Guapo - Five Suns CD (album) cover

FIVE SUNS

Guapo

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.11 | 99 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Guapo really wowed me with their most recent release Black Oni (released in 2005). This album, released before Black Oni in 2005, is a precursor to that album sonically, and is really almost up to the quality that Black Oni was. But enough about Black Oni and a lot more about Five Suns. Daniel O'Sullivan, Matt Thompson, and Dave Smith comprise the trio unit of Guapo, and it is actually just amazing how three men can make such a wall of sound so dense and full of life at the same time. All of them are virtuosos and all have impeccable skills, from Thompson's raging bass lines to the precision drumming of Smith, all with a heavy dosage of vintage keyboard and guitar stylings from O'Sullivan, who really is the key member to these two albums unique sound. This unique sound actually brings up thoughts of mid 70s King Crimson with a nice heavy dosage of Magma just for good measure and the combination is quite stunning. The album itself is a combination of three pieces, the first is the multi piece epic Five Suns (indexed into 5 different tracks of varying length), then a minute of silence (with a track devoted to that), and two following pieces that don't have anything to do with each other. In the end, though, you probably won't be the same once you listen to this album.

The album opens with the 46 minute epic Five Suns. The epic crashing gong opens up what for the listener will be an uneasy ride. There is an unsettling atmosphere throughout the entire piece, but the beginning is where the most tension lies mainly because you don't know what direction the group will take next. O'Sullivan seems to be heavily relient on the Fender Rhodes, mainly providing chords and arpeggios on top of the sonic rhythmic assault, and it is rather evident from the opening minutes of the piece. His guitar stylings later in the piece rely mainly on dissonant phrasing and giving a real Fripp vibe throughout. Right from the beginning you can hear the style of Dave Smith as well, in which he is a powerful drummer often going for brute force rather than subtle addition, and Thompson from the beginning offers s brutal and consistent bass patterns that not only keep the beat but offer a grueling pace and are often very melodic at the same time. The second part of the song is where things really get cooking, with a nice Krimson-esque mellotron lead with some nice ascending bass riffs and some great snare patterns underneath. The best part of this song in my opinion comes in at the beginning of the third part, where there is an incredible down beat on the bass and some great unison snare/hi-hat work and the guitar first really comes into the foray, it just is the perfect atmosphere and it really strikes the perfect counterpoint to the softer section before it. But that's just getting towards the middle, there's a lot left to be said. The variance in keyboards must also be noted, although most tones are found on the Rhodes, there are some great hammond and mellotron sections (usually the hammond comes in during the more hectic and frenetic parts of this piece) as well as a bit of harmonium to spice things up a bit. In the end, the centerpiece of the album would ultimately be the best part, with spectacular playing on all parts and creative riffs and sounds that really leave no one alive.

After the maelstrom of sound that is Five Suns a brief intermission is played in the form of a minute of silence. That's right, a track that is nothing but sixty seconds of nothingness. The next two pieces that round off the album are Mictlan and Topan. The first of these pieces, Mictlan, is a more hammond relient piece with some nice lead Fender Rhodes arpeggios and a consistent drum pattern that really picks up in intensity. The dissonant chord progressions fit nicely with the subtle guitar work and the monstrous bass lines. It certainly doesn't really compare to Five Suns, but it's still a really creative piece with some nice innovative work. What I like about these two pieces in that they are usually concise and don't really meander around riffs and sections that don't really need to be there or sections that overstay their welcome in a song. I must also mention that on these pieces the uses of odd time is more prevalent than on the first piece of the album, with Mictlan having sections of 7/4 and 7/8 and both motifs fitting well within the piece (the 7/4 theme is the main part of the song as well). Topan is the official closer of the album, and it takes a softer turn for the group, with a heavy use of atmosphere rather than a choatic wall of sound. A subtle buildup breaks into some solid bass riffing and a nice electric piano piece with floaty chords played above the somewhat subdued, yet still heavily physical drumming. In the end, the piece gives the album a suitable farewell and I'm quite impressed with it as well, although it is a bit slow in the middle sections.

Overall, Avant-Garde fans will not go wrong with the purchase of either this album or Black Oni. While not as good (or as technically challenging or dense) as Black Oni, this is still a phenomenal precursor to that style that they would play and Guapo is really one of the most cutting edge and in my opinion progressive groups around these days. Fans of the Red era of King Crimson and the heavier bass oriented works of Magma can't go wrong with a purchase of this as well, as those two influences are indeed strong, yet they don't go the extra mile and outright copy them (which is a good thing, mind you). As for me, I think this is an almost masterpiece, but there are some minor things that keep it from getting full marks. 4.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |

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