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Guapo Elixirs album cover
3.77 | 70 ratings | 6 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Jeweled Turtle (13:09)
2. Arthur, Elsie And Frances (10:53)
3. Twisted Stems: The Heliotrope (7:32)
4. Twisted Stems: The Selenotrope (7:45)
5. The Planks (3:11)
6. King Lindorm (15:40)

Total Time 58:10

Line-up / Musicians

- Daniel O'Sullivan / Fender Rhodes, piano, bass, guitars, harmonium, synths, autoharp, electronics, vocals
- Dave Smith / drums, percussion

- Sarah Hubrich / violin & viola (1)
- Alexander Tucker / vocals (3)
- Jarboe / vocals (4)

Releases information

Artwork: Kim Slve and Trine Paulsen

CD Neurot Recordings ‎- NR 052 (2008, US)

Thanks to HipGnose for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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GUAPO Elixirs ratings distribution

(70 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

GUAPO Elixirs reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After two amazing albums "Five Suns" and "Black Oni", both of them virtually impossible to beat or equal, Guapo kept evolving and creating great avant-prog music, which ultimately was delivered in their 2008's album "Elixirs". With a permanent guitar player and a new bassist on board, Guapo now reveals itself as an ensemble decided to explore predominantly subtle atmospheres and deceitfully relaxed. The post-rock element had been a nuance in "Black Oni", but in "Elixirs" it has become a relevant presence in the band's refurbished sound. This is still genuinely zheul, but clearly with a more elaborate work of grayish textures, not only based on a bigger influence from the post-rock standard, but also Arabic/North African-inspired exotic sonorities. This less explosive approach to Guapo's archetypical exploration of neurotic, dark, disturbing sonic displays helps the band to focus on the mysterious side of their music with an enhanced fruition. This is pretty obvious from the opening track 'Jeweled Turtle', whose initial languid mood feels powerfully focused on the drumming's ritualistic cadence, making it sound like a procession of lost ghosts. The guest violin and viola gradually take center stage until things become patently dramatic, especially during the second half - the additional Arabic undertones reinforce the black magic aura instilled in the track's nucleus. Track 2 'Arthur, Elsie and France' is more vital, set on a jazz-rock scheme for a Magma-meets-Present excursion in which organic tension and cacophony alternate fluidly. The keyboard and bass inputs remind us closely to Guapo's previous albums, but Smith's drumming bears enough versatility and subtlety as to keep things reasonably constrained (yet still explosive). Tracks 3 and 4 are parts of a concept titled 'Twisted Stems', both being sung tracks: 'The Heliotrope' has a slow, relaxing acid-jazz mood that evokes a modernized Robert Wyatt, while 'The Selenotrope' is slightly more oppressive, with a bit of sensuality (something like Portishead-meets-Sigur Rs). 'The Planks' is the briefest and most upbeat piece in the album: with its very ethnic main motif, the band manages to bring an optimistic, catchy vibe without giving up on their penchant for mysterious atmospheres and experimental ideas. The last 15 minutes are occupied by 'King Lindrom', which gets started with a psychedelic deconstruction of Far East moods (I am inclined to notice the legacy of "Ummagumma"-era Pink Floyd and early Amon Duul on this one). Once the electric piano sets the initial cadences for the center section, it won't be long before the whole band displays yet another example of zheul/post-rock tension. Right before minute 8, a new motif arrives to increase and release a sonic power that until now had remained partially latent. The rhythm duo's jazz-inspired labor and the creepy guitar lead deserve special mentions. At minute 11 , things return to calmer moods in order to set the pace for the coda (a reprise of the introductory section). While not equaling the electrifying fire of "Five Suns" or the special witchcraft of "Black Oni", "Elixirs" still represents the excellence of Guapo's musical vision - this is likely to become a very featured album in prog circles for the year 2008.
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Guapo's third full album since their dramatic musical change (you can read that as since O'Sullivan came into the group), and yet another important progression... After the Crimson/Anekdotian feel of Five Suns, than the slightly Magma-esque post rock of Black Oni, you're in for another surprise here. Now reduced only to a duo, Smith (drums and perc.) and O'Sullivabn (pretty well everything else), also enlist some vocal help on two tracks and a violinist of the opening track. Although only a duo,, this is not stopping Guapo's musical spectrum to enlarge to the widest it's been since their second life began, now ranging from Univers Zero's gloom to Portishead's doom, right through Zeuhl, Rio , Post Rock territories. . Opening on the Jewelled Turtle (featured on the front artwork), right from its very few first notes, you just know that Guapo just got again darker, reaching a sort solemnity that Daniel Denis' squadron is used to, so that when Guapo reaches its mid-Eastern finale of this 13 minutes track, it becomes believable. The following Elsie And Frances (see the next two pages for illustrations) is again right in the UZ alley and almost as convincing as the opening track. O'Sullivan's electric piano is particularly right on the button, but he surprises us on guitars as well, although he doesn't do anything very fancy, he 's on the button as well.

The two tracks that had appeared in a different (instrumental) version on the Twisted Stem EP, and as you might have guessed these are the two sung tracks on this present album. Indeed the two-part Twisted stem are divided on The Heliotrope (some sea weed of some kind I think), while the second is Selenotrope, but it's more of a night (Selena = moon) and day thing (Helios = sun), both plants getting a full double page for illustration. Starting on finger cymbals (sounding Japanese), Heliotrope is more of a post rock with some quiet chants reciting a psalm (or sumthin' like that) and doesn't really evolve and overstays its welcome, doubly so by an excruciatingly long outro. Its night counterpart starts much the same way (finger cymbal) but goes very gloomy and less pleasant, the chants coming to a deranged Gibbons/Bjork proximity, while creepy music is .. The track is that much less easy than its day counterpart, but it has the good taste of quitting while ahead.

The Planks is an upbeat Mid-Eastern-type of tracks that gets its illustrations from some snake and indeed it could have been lifted from some snake charmer's tune book. It's highly un-Guapo like and stands out from the album (actually this could just be a Miasma track lost here), but it's very short and provides a welcome interlude before the closing King Lindorm. Here the doom reaches the Present level (best heard through the piano work), but it's not quite as repetitive or minimalist, while Smith just shines on drums; And O'Sullivan confirms his recent mastery of the guitar, playing both the questions on keyboards and the answers on the guitar. Excellent ending to Elixir, although its illustration on the booklet is not the clearest or obvious.

Yet another very worthy Guapo enterprise, Elixirs has the advantage over the previous two albums to have wider spectrum, but in doing so, Guapo also took a risk of beinbg strange and uneasy, but seeing their first chapter, it's not like the Guapo name reaches the extremes. On a strict value in terms of PA stars, I don't find Elixir better than FS or BO, but different.

Review by Prog-jester
4 stars I rarely check Avant releases and barely care for the whole genre, but when I need something dark and weird, I usually look for recommendations in Avant Thread here on PA. I was familiar with GUAPO music, I didn't like it that much, to be fairly honest, but when I' ve chanced to get Neurot Records' 'Elixirs', I hesitated for just few seconds, maybe, even less.

OK, now I may claim that 'Elixirs' is amazing, it's my Top-10 2008 release for sure, fresh and quirky, dark but not sinister, complex but sincere, mellow and melancholic, almost in...yes, let me say this, in POST-ROCK vein. This is what most GUAPO fans may not like, but this is what makes this record so appealing to my horrifying taste :). One of the key CDs to define Prog in 2008, balanced and captivating, almost-a-masterpiece, dare I say - highly recommended!

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The three year gap between Black Oni and Elixirs was the longest yet between full length album releases for Guapo, and in that time a lot of interesting developments took place. First and foremost the band is once again a duo, now consisting of founder member David Smith on drums and percussion and Daniel O'Sullivan on keyboards, guitar and bass, although for live performances they expand to a quartet. There have been a number of related projects; there were releases from Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses, Aethenor and Stargazer's Assistant; Daniel O'Sullivan played live with Sunn O))) and David Smith with the Amal Gamal Ensemble; and David Smith created a large scale installation at a London art gallery (for which Stargazer's Assistant provided the soundtrack). Last but not least, Guapo continued to perform live, including their first American tour and their spectacular and well received set at the RIO festival in Carmaux, and they released the Twisted Stems limited edition ep.

Taking all of that into account, it's not surprising that Elixirs sees some significant changes in Guapo's sound. Where Black Oni and 5 Suns presented large scale pieces divided into sections, Elixirs has 5 distinct pieces (or perhaps 4 with a brief intermission), each with a distinct sound, identity and reference point. Daniel O'Sullivan plays a lot more guitar than on previous Guapo albums, and is as accomplished and inventive on guitar as he is on keyboards. David Smith is more in evidence as a subtle and skilful percussionist, which throws his powerful and ferocious drumming into sharp relief. Vocals, another first for this incarnation of Guapo, have been added to the 'Twisted Stems' tracks, and there is a cameo appearance by a member of Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses. There is also a feeling of space through much of the album, in contrast to the occasionally claustrophobic density of 5 Suns and Black Oni, and if the music is not as immediate as before it has become both deeper and more rewarding, constantly revealing new facets.

Jewelled Turtle opens the proceedings. The title refers to JK Huysman's A Rebours (published in English as Against Nature), a bizarre late 19th century novel about a decadent aesthete. The music moves at the slow, stately pace of the unfortunate reptile it is named for, occasionally halting for a moment. Fender Rhodes and minimal percussion provide the backbone, with Miasma's Sarah Hubrich adding some drones on violin and viola. Fingerpicked acoustic guitar adds to the atmosphere before some edgy electronics interrupt and the pace picks up a little. O'Sullivan strums a single chord on electric guitar, Hubrich plays a lament and the acoustic guitar weaves a modal melody around it while keyboards, percussion and electric guitar build to a subtle but definite climax. There's a hint of Daniel Fieschelscher era Popol Vuh here, but with a darker ambience.

Arthur, Elsie and Francis is a reference to the Cottingley Fairies. In 1917 two sisters took photographs of fairies near their home (the fairy folk looking suspiciously like cardboard cut outs). They achieved some notoriety courtesy of Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a firm believer in spiritualism and who published a book about them. The music is similar to parts of Black Oni, with contrasting delicate acoustic and pounding electric passages. Odd bursts of electronic effects add to the atmosphere, and O'Sullivan adds some beautifully fluid lead guitar, especially in the closing section.

Twisted Stems is the centrepiece of the album. The instrumental ep tracks appear here with vocals and (from the sound of it) some additional overdubbing. The Heliotrope and The Selenetrope are named for plants, the first an actual genus of plants named because they turn their leaves to face the sun, and the latter a moon worshipping herb referred to in mediaeval spells but which does not appear to correspond to any known plant. The male voice of The Heliotrope is the remarkable Alexander Tucker, who has also worked with Stargazer's Assistant, while the female voice of The Selenetrope is courtesy of Swans vocalist Jarboe. As on Jewelled Turtle there's a hint of Popol Vuh, this time in the exquisite, multi tracked vocal arrangements. The contrasts between the two pieces are obvious; sun and moon, day and night, male and female, darkness and light - but what is masterful here is the way that these are realised musically, with the ambience gradually becoming darker and more sinister as one piece gives way to the next just as day fades into night.

The Planks is a short intermission, the only piece which is not illustrated in the CD booklet. Musically it's a 3 minute guitar and drums dervish whirl that recalls some of the Middle Eastern sounding pieces on Great Sage, Equal of Heaven, the last Guapo album before O'Sullivan joined. It's tight, concise and is a good lead in to the grand finale.

King Lindorm takes its title from a Danish folk tale about a magical serpent that is born to a royal couple along with a human twin. It's the longest track on the album and the one which comes closest to the sound of 5 Suns and Black Oni, and (I think) has also been played live over the last couple of years. After a stately opening on keyboards, David Smith strikes his gong and Guapo are off into the kind of high intensity nightmare musical journey that they deliver so well. The Fender Rhodes, bass and drums interplay that defined 5 Suns is reprised here in all its glory, with O'Sullivan once again adding some excellent flourishes on guitar. This is also the one track on the album which could have benefited from the presence of a bassist; while there's nothing wrong with O'Sullivan's bass work, a third musician could have beefed the low end of musical spectrum up a little. This is a minor gripe, however, and King Lindorm is well up to standard.

Elixirs is essential listening and a strong contender for album of the year. Guapo have evolved and developed since their last release and they remain, in the best sense of the term, a progressive rock band. Their musical palette has broadened but their integrity remains intact, with their trademark dark intensity stamped over every note. It's beautifully packaged as well, with the illustrations and sleeve notes providing useful pointers to the various inspirations behind the music. An emphatic 5 stars.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 'Elexirs' is a more eclectic album then the 2 preceding ones. This offers the advantage of diversity, but the disadvantage of including experiments that might not please all fans. With their basic Zeuhl/dark jazz sound extended with post-rock, folk, avant-garde vocals and RIO, this album might not thrill everyone equally.

Things start just brilliantly with 'Jeweled Turtle', a seemingly quiet violin piece, but one with a threatening tension underneath the surface. It's the first time I hear Universe Zero's influence so prominently. Also 'Arthur, Elsie and Frances' has some of that dark UZ atmosphere. The quicker paced sections with drum and distorted bass guitar are typical instrumental modern Zeuhl. The last part of the track has some much appreciated post-rock influences

So far so good, but then follow the two 'Twisted Sterns' songs, which I guess divide the fanbase somewhat. I find the 'The Heliotrope' very disappointing and dreary, 'The Selenotrope' on the other hand works better for me, with its frighteningly tense atmosphere and guest vocals from Jarboe (being a huge fan of Swans may cloud my judgment here). 'The Planks' is an upbeat mid-eastern folky tune that lightens up the mood. On 'King Lindorm' they mix their Zeuhl sound again with post-rock and again it's very effective. I especially love how it ends, building up a crescendo in true canon fashion, circling loops around itself and leaving the listener dizzy and ultimately floored.

'Elexirs' is a challenging listen; one for avant fans with a degree, but there's still a strong rock vibe to the material, which is - for me at least - very helpful to get into this thick, dark but ultimately beautiful dissonance.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. GUAPO put out about eight recordings including EPs and collaborations with other bands before releasing the monster "Five Suns" in 2004. I haven't heard any of those obscure earlier recordings but of the six studio albums that follow I would rate "Five Suns" and "Obscure Knowledge" with 5 stars, "History Of The Visitation" with 4 stars and "Black Oni" and "Elixirs" 3.5 stars. "Black Oni" unfortunately followed "Five Suns" so the expectations were too high and it is quite experimental and noisy at times. Still I kept changing my mind with my rating just like I did for "Elixirs" although I'd rate "Black Oni" over this one. The Two "Twisted Stems" songs on here disappoint me while the closer "King Lindorm" I would rate as one of their top three songs. So I'm a little conflicted but in the end went with 3.5 stars. By the way there's sampled mellotron on here apparently but it's hard to find.

"Jeweled Turtle" (see cover art) is a slow atmospheric piece that is interesting at times. We get guest violin making noise after 4 minutes. Guitar joins in around 6 1/2 minutes. It turns more experimental before 7 1/2 minutes. It's pretty much guitar and electric piano before 9 minutes before the drums and atmosphere return. The violin is back screeching away. A good opener.

"Arthur, Elsie And Frances" is my second favourite song on here after the closer. Drums and Fender Rhodes stand out early. It's more powerful before 2 minutes. It settles back as the Fender Rhodes becomes the focus then it kicks back in after 4 minutes. Nice. I like the angular guitar before 5 1/2 minutes then a calm arrives with picked guitar before kicking back in. Contrasts continue.

"Twister Stems: The Hellotrope" is a song that I just don't like. We get guest male vocals that kind of have this sing- songy style to them at times. I just can't get into it at all. "Twisted Stems: The Selenotrope" is better but not by much. Jarboe from SWANS adds her vocals here in this laid back tune. Some experimental sounds that remind me of chains rattling come and go. This is a repetitive one and a tough go for me.

"The Planks" is an energetic but short track that hits the ground running. "King Lindorm" is one of GUAPO's best tracks ever. It takes 4 minutes to get to the sound that I absolutely adore on here but then I just sit back and enjoy for the remaining 11 1/2 minutes. Fender Rhodes, drums and bass lead the way and I just can't get enough of this sound.

So yeah tough not giving this 4 stars especially considering that the epic "King Lindorm" is on here but that might change in time.

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