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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Originally issued as a very limited edition 7" single to coincide with their first American tour, this interesting ep by Guapo was recently given a well deserved CD release. As well as marking their first American tour, it's the first release by Guapo's current incarnation of founder/drummer Dave Smith and keyboard/multi instrumentalist Daniel O'Sullivan, the duo expanding to a quartet for live performances and using guest musicians where necessary in the studio.

It's also something of a musical departure for them. 'The Heliotrope' is a gorgeous, low key piece with a jazzy feel built around a minimal percussion part and a simple piano figure, with a bass line that wanders pleasantly through the spaces in the arrangement. There's something of The Necks' sonic sculpture in here, and even a hint of EST's spacier excursions on their recent albums, but darker elements slowly manifest themselves as the piece unfolds. 'The Selenetrope' builds on this theme, but the piano chords become darker and Dave Smith's featherlight snare drum work becomes more forceful and aggressive, leading us into slightly more familiar Guapo territory - the feel here (though not the sound) is closer to Goblin's horror movie soundtracks. At the end of the 15 minute playing time the soundscape has moved light and airy to a stygian underworld, all of which has been achieved with discipline and restraint.

None of this is completely unprecedented; the final two tracks on 5 Suns showed the jazzy side of the band's muse, while Guapo's track on their shared project with Cerebus Shoal had some of the near ambient mood of the opening minutes. Whether this is a foretaste of their next album or simply an interesting sideways step, Twisted Stems is a fully realised stand alone piece that well up to the high standards set by 5 Suns and Black Oni. Recommended.

Report this review (#110084)
Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars Music for a sad night

Guapo's lastest EP has them venturing into seemingly untested waters. Beautiful was never a word I would use to describe their music. Haunting, intense, creative, even frightening would work...but not beautiful. This record breaks through that barrier. The Heliotrope is a piece of music I will use to say beauty without actually saying words. The mornful piano melody is gracefully accompanied by a minimal drum work and an ever present bass that adds a real depth to this piece. A jazzy element is also alive in this piece giving it an upbeat edge in feel, but not in feeling. An essential track from Guapo fans. The Selenotrope reintroduces the "normal" Guapo atmosphere, as menacing and uneasy. It starts with a simple yet errie piano part, and slowly builds up in intensity, adding more and more percussion and darker bass work. While not as boisterous as most of their other songs, The Selenotrope is much more nervous and twitchy. Personally, this is the kind of music I would expect to be the backdrop to a nightmare. And just like's over.

All in all this is a great musical experience. Firmly rooted in the RIO style, Twisted Stems contorts its way through everything fans come to expect from Guapo and more. While I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point, this still makes for an excellent edition for any collection, especially for diehard RIO fans. 4 stars.

Report this review (#120093)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Guapo is a bit of a Zeuhl/post-rock hybrid, with occasional delves into more avant-garde territory. This tiny EP is primarily comprised of slow, post-rock music. It's very delicate, very beautiful, and extremely haunting. It's experimental in nature; in the scope; in the timbre. Frail piano balances this, with its touching chords and melodies. Bass is even used as a melodic instrument, and drums are extremely conservative, but in perfect quantity for the vision. Where does the experimentalism derive from, then? Added effects and sounds; percussive and electronic, often playing parallel to a simply stunningly gorgeous, slow climb. It may seem as though this would make a very jagged album, but I assure you the beauty is not lost in the subtle strange noises, but rather supported. I can't shake off a bit of an ethnic vibe here, alongside the staggeringly colourful imagery, and the graceful piano. The second section, The Selantrope, is significantly more sinister, and is almost a dissonant version of the previous song (though with many obvious differences). I think this album will appeal both to fans of experimental and avant-garde textures, as well as those more occupied with the symphonic and melodic quarters of progressive rock. Consider this an extremely high three stars.
Report this review (#163639)
Posted Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Two track EP lasting roughly a quarter of an hour, with both tunes in the Zeuhl/post rock mode, this time sounding more like Shub-Niggurath. Guapo is now only a duo with Daniel O'Sullivan playing all instruments except for drums and all percussions still handled by original Guapist Dave Smith. Both Heliotrope and Selenotrope are tracks of the same length and sound much the same, which is something find a bit odd since the former is about the sun (Helos) and the latter is about the moon (Selene), but ok, I'm not the artist. Both are slow-paced sinister/macabre marches through the gothic realms of Guapo's fantasy world. The usual stuff, except that the Magma-Zeuhl has disappeared for the Shub-Nig-Zeuhl. Up to you to see if it's worth it, but it's been a while since their last release.
Report this review (#165117)
Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 | Review Permalink

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