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Guranfoe - Sum of Erda CD (album) cover



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4 stars It's strange, the places you can come across valuable new music; as a recent user of Reddit, I joined the Prog Rock Music subreddit in the hopes of chatting with some fellow prog enthusiasts, and predictably, everybody was talking about the same old things I'd imagined they would be. However, after scrolling down for a while, I finally came across something I didn't recognise - someone had posted 'Eventide' by Guranfoe. Intrigued, I gave it a listen. I have to say - for the first half of the song, I genuinely thought that the band must have been from the 1970's, the sound was so authentic, and it was only upon listening further and looking up the band that I realised that the album had come out only five days earlier. I had to give more songs a listen, and 'Sum Of Erda' very quickly became one of my easiest purchases of 2019.

What Guranfoe manage to achieve on 'Sum Of Erda' is a wonderful balance between the heady atmospheres and genuine feel of 1970's prog groups, and current styles. It's easy to tell that the group are genuine prog enthusiasts, and have learnt from the masters, encapsulating things that made early-days prog brilliant and fusing them with their own modern sensibility, and the best part is that it doesn't sound copycat or stale in any way. There isn't a second on the album that reminds me too much of something else, nor are there any moments that feel like they're trying too hard to sound authentic. These guys aren't attempting to figure out what prog is - they're just living it.

The album itself is a luscious painting of sound, featuring a strong core band, and augmented by other instrumentalists that bring vital elements to the mix. While no songs feature vocals, their musicianship shines through and makes for very interesting and enjoyable tracks nonetheless, moving through sections that both compliment and contrast, at times. Discordant guitars, heavenly flutes, crashing drums, vibraphones and a whole array of instruments are present across the album, and not a single one is unnecessary or out of place - everything serves a perfect purpose, merging to create a wonderful canvas of music. It's an album that goes down easily, pleasing to the ear, and feels quite polished, without being overly so. Overall, I think Guranfoe are very good at what they do, and if this is the first studio offering from them, I can't wait to see what comes next.

Report this review (#2310246)
Posted Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars An excellent album by this English band!

What we have here could be considered the most accurate definition of 'eclectic prog' IMO. You can hear bits from 70s symphonic prog, avant/canterbury, space & psychedelic prog, jazz-fusion rythms and folk, all mixed together masterfully. The great achevement of this album is not to sound derivative of any of those styles in particular and being an extremely original piece of music that flows incredibly well.

Favourite tracks: Eventide and Night's First Light, which are true eclectic gems.

Four big stars, I can't wait to hear more from this band. Highly recommended to fans of 70s prog rock.

Report this review (#2482385)
Posted Friday, December 4, 2020 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars [Originally published at The Progressive Aspect]

There are many bands playing the almost oxymoronic styled retro-prog, and few do it in a way that interests me. If the music is too honorific, derivative or comparable with the greats of the past, I can't really see the point. Young Norwich band Guranfoe, on the other hand, have surprised me with their thoroughly modern sounding jazz fusion, referencing classic prog. It doesn't sound at all stuck in the past, and as well as sounding modern, the band sounds overwhelmingly happy. It is hard for me to imagine the young, talented musicians of Guranfoe playing the technical and complicated music they do without having fun and smiles on their faces. I certainly have a smile on my face when I'm listening. As Guranfoe are a band quite local to me, I guess I will hopefully soon have an opportunity to see if the smiles are there when they play live!

Although Sum of Erda is the debut album from Guranfoe, their Bandcamp reveals they have been around for a good few years (eight, if I've worked this out correctly) and have a wealth of Bandcamp albums of rehearsals and live performances to listen to from over those years (I've not counted, but it wouldn't surprise me if there were close to a hundred of these!). That the band have played together for some time is blatantly obvious, a quite brilliant culmination of many years spent playing live. The dual lead guitarists James Burns and Ollie Snell weave in and out of each other, and everyone locks into the groove and jams. There is as much psychedelic rock in Sum of Erda as there is progressive rock.

However, having just stated that the years of playing live shows in the band's sound, I do have to say that, having listened to a few of the performances on offer on Bandcamp, Guranfoe have cultivated a studio sound that is actually quite distinct and different from their live sound. Yes, the time signatures are still forever changing, and yes, there is an obvious love for playing adventurous and exciting music, but this is far more Guranfoe's own sound. And I love it! There are passages throughout where one instrument or another dominates, showing just how talented every musician in the band is. Added to the mix are additional musicians (on woodwind, strings and percussion) who add flavour in sparing quantities. I have to admit that much of the time I find myself grooving along to the rhythm section of Robin Breeze and Joe Burns, and when they take their turns to be upfront, it's pretty amazing stuff.

The cover art, which I particularly like, lends a pastoral air that the music only hints at, in brief moments. Those pastoral passages are, as expected, quite beautiful ' and also provide moments of quiet and restraint after the full-on fusion jams. One of my favourite such moments is at the end of the third track, Karu Vatsarin (which, by the way, is probably my favourite track on the album and a perfect centrepiece), leading into the equally gentle Etsinta Visions. This is the shortest track of the album by some way, and (for me, at least) works more as an extended coda to Karu Vatsarin than anything else, despite its title seeming to have more in common with the following track.

Etsinta Harvest in the Thar Sands is a quite incredible closing track, which plays out almost like a suite. The final four minutes are almost mindblowing, coming after the intricate and contemplative, almost classical beginning of the track. It's a punchy and uplifting way to top off what has been a journey of joyful energy from beginning to end. I'm sure there was probably a concept in there somewhere (the song titles, if nothing else, suggest this), but I'm not sure what it was. When the music is as carefree and as good as this, it really doesn't matter. I choose to just go with the flow, and Guranfoe make it very easy to do so, taking me along with them on a magic carpet ride of psychedelic bliss. I've never done drugs, but I can get high on music.

Guranfoe live seem to rely a lot on the seemingly endless creative energy of the band to improvise. For this studio release ' although there is definitely still a tendency to jam out ' the improvisations are clearly held in check. The band sounds tight and focused, yet still overflowing with energy and vitality. The five instrumental pieces are rich and varied, maintaining interest throughout. Each track has its own identity and sound, combining the warm tones of '70s prog with grittier, more modern tones. Retro-prog this is not. I sincerely hope this band find some degree of success and recognition, as they deserve it.

Report this review (#2482443)
Posted Saturday, December 5, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sum of Erda is the debut studio album from UK's psychedelic and symphonic prog band Guranfoe. It's an all instrumental album and quite an excellent one, a musical trip that teases with various sub genres and has multiple hooks and catchy moments allowing to easily forget (and never miss) any vocals, they're just not needed here.

The band is a quartet composed of James Burns (electric & acoustic guitars), Ollie Snell (electric, acoustic & lap steel guitars), Robin Breeze (bass, piano, organ & synths) and Joe Burns (drums, percussion, piano & synths), with some session musicians that complete the beautiful work with violins, flutes, clarinets, etc.

Five tracks clocking slightly over 36mins in total with my highlights being:

- Night's First Light

- Etsinta Harvest in the Thar Sands

There's some Jethro Tull influences as well as Gentle Giant can also be felt at spots, folky and heavy with a very intricate communion between all instruments, flawless transitions and somehow memorable music. A great and easy listen for all music lovers, specially those attracted to instrumental music, jazz fusion rock and progressive music in general. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#2739122)
Posted Sunday, April 24, 2022 | Review Permalink

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