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GUAPO

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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Guapo biography
GUAPO have been around in one form or another for about 10 years now. Drummer Dave Smith and bassist Matt Thompson worked for a long time as a duo, collaborating with a variety of guest musicians along the way, most notably RUINS. They are currently a trio, joined by keyboard player Daniel O'Sullivan. They are usually described as Zeuhl and compared to MAGMA, UNIVERS ZERO and the like, but they can also be compared to contemporary 'post-rock' bands like GODSPEED YOU, BLACK EMPEROR.

Not much of their earlier work is readily available, although samples can be found on their excellent website. The best starting point is the awesome "5 Suns" CD, recently released on Cuneiform records. MAGMA fans will love the driving bass lines, Fender Rhodes piano and powerhouse drumming, post rock fans will love the breakneck tempos and genuine music fans will be won over by the excellent musicianship.

Try to see them live if you can, they're as formidable on stage as they are on CD. Highly recommended to anyone interested in progressive music, ancient or modern.

: : : Chris Gleeson, UK : : :


See also:
- Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses

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Obscure KnowledgeObscure Knowledge
CUNEIFORM 2015
Audio CD$9.99
$9.98 (used)
History Of The Visitation (CD/DVD)History Of The Visitation (CD/DVD)
CUNEIFORM 2013
Audio CD$16.69
$15.35 (used)
ElixirsElixirs
Neurot Recordings 2008
Audio CD$13.77
$5.74 (used)
Black OniBlack Oni
Ipecac Recordings 2005
Audio CD$5.89
$7.47 (used)
Five SunsFive Suns
Cuneiform 2004
Audio CD$9.00
$6.46 (used)
Great Sage Equal Of HeavenGreat Sage Equal Of Heaven
Pandemonium / Tumult 2007
Audio CD$9.98
$7.95 (used)
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GUAPO discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

GUAPO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.17 | 8 ratings
Towers Open Fire
1997
2.27 | 7 ratings
Hirohito
1998
3.14 | 7 ratings
Death Seed
2000
2.77 | 14 ratings
Great Sage, Equal of Haven
2001
4.11 | 109 ratings
Five Suns
2004
4.01 | 68 ratings
Black Oni
2005
3.87 | 57 ratings
Elixirs
2008
4.01 | 70 ratings
History Of The Visitation
2013
4.00 | 13 ratings
Obscure Knowledge
2015

GUAPO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

GUAPO Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

GUAPO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

GUAPO Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.95 | 2 ratings
Guapo vs. Magma
1998
3.60 | 7 ratings
Twisted Stems
2006

GUAPO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 History Of The Visitation by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.01 | 70 ratings

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History Of The Visitation
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by tmay102436

5 stars I pretty much quit giving 5 stars for anything but "the gods of the golden era." I pretty much quit writing reviews, as I was (and still am) so enthralled with the aforementioned giants of prog and the newly remixed, 5.1 or remastered additions of these heroes (Early Genesis, Tull, etc....)

Then I heard this Guapo CD - "History Of The Visitation." My god, what a masterwork. I have a couple other albums of theirs, and they are quite wonderful, leaving hope for future RIO's with a new slant. THIS IS THAT HOPE!

From beginning to end, your ears, soul and heart are turned upside down, smoothed out, and then put under intense pressure, all to be relieved by the sheer beauty of tone and color that works so well together. Obvious reference points are the trad RIO giants - Univerze Zero, Art Zoyd, a bit of Henry Cow, etc....but this is English RIO at its best, and reawakens what makes the best of RIO so insatiable to ears that love the style.

A previous reviewer stated that maybe you have to be an older listener (of which I am!) to really appreciate this, and maybe he's right. But I hope that a younger generation can hear this wonderful work of Guapo, understand that it is derived from learning, listening to past and present, and pure magic and talent.

Bravo Guapo, Bravo!

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 Great Sage, Equal of Haven by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2001
2.77 | 14 ratings

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Great Sage, Equal of Haven
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars Almost three stars, really!!!

Last Guapo album before they would dramatically change their soundscape to a Zeuhlish-post rock, GSEoH is pretty much in the line of its three predecessor, often veering in dissonant and hardcore experimental math rock. I won't try to decipher what the trio is up to in terms of esoteric concept - provided there is one, but the artwork album name and track names seem to imply at least a little something ? since the band keeps instrumental and it all seems shallow dressing-up of the difficult music. When I say trio, lead blower Caroline Kraabel only plays on half the tracks, and it's mostly the Smith-Thompson duo that fill up the sonic wall;;; But when Caroline does blow in her saxes, it's anything but meaningless. As the album goes on, the trio invited a couple of guests for the last tracks (as if they needed help to beef-up their sound), as the least we can say is that the album is filled with long crescendos, sometimes ala Crimson.

The album starts with a brooding oppressive crescendo soon developing in a weird hardcore klezmer rock (ala Alamaailman Vasarat, but without horns) Total noisy chaos is reached with the thankfully-short Ten Years Of Heisei, where the trachy hardcore math rock nears epic proportions, but this is not positive. Elsewhere (in Sakura) the album offers a little aural rest with a repetitive sludgy riff. Also starting quieter is the Perfect blue piecen, where Kraabel gets reinforcements in the sax dept, with Edwards coming in. And the final track gets the help of Andy Thompson's Minimoog, and it adds the electronic weirdness to the oppressive crescendo.

Well in the line of its predecessor, it would be a while before Guapo would release another album, most likely because they had to find O' Sullivan that would change the band's sound drastically since his instruments werekeyboards, which are almost totally absent on the present TGSEoH. This one is hardly essential, unless you care for Guap's Mk I era.

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 History Of The Visitation by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.01 | 70 ratings

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History Of The Visitation
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars After a four or five years hiatus, Guapo returns with what we could e'asily call their Mk3 era, since O'Sullivan has now left. Indeed, the band's musical scope had dramatically shifted from a noisy experimental and dissonant quagmire, to a much more palatable zeuhl-ish post rock (from Five Suns onwards). Despite bassist Thompson quickly dropping out of the picture, the trio (at first), then a duo, became a quartet with the preceding Elixirs. Replacing O'Sullivan is Emmett Emvin, but his style does not differ much much his predecessor, especuially that he's using more or less the same instruments, but mainly a Rhodes. Musically the band had shifted from a certain form of Zeuhl to an interesting Post Rock, then slowly growing into their unclassifiable brand of prog. A rather bland outer artwork, though the inner folds are much brighter and sunnier forest shots, which is rather unusual for the band. Also invited are a bunch of horn players (5) and two string players, though they're not overly present, and therefore this does not change the band's general soundscapes.

The album itself features three tracks, the first of which is a five-movement 26-mns Pilman Radiant. As usual the piece opens with a lengthy and calm intro, gradually picking up momentum and intensity, to lead us into the demented soundscapes and foray deeply in the entrails of the band's musical realm. The short (less than 5-mins) Complex 7 track can be seen as the intro of the 11-mins finale Tremors From The Future piece., which is filled with heroics and histrionics. Great stuff.

As a bonus, the ever-excellent Cuneiform label includes a DVD that features two concert footages from two different festivals (Nearfest 06 and RIO Fest 07) when O'Sullivan was still in the band. If both footage are very interesting, don't expect professional filming (the sound is quite OK, though), as it's mostly one (sometimes two fixed cameras shooting the scene. Nearfest's Five Suns film is in black & white and shows the amazing live dynamics of the band, despite two seated musicians. The French RIO fest (which yours truly attended) footage is shot in colour, but it would be an exaggeration to say that it is in superior quality than its companion footage. However, I had almost forgotten how the King Lindorm piece gad enthralled me back then. Yet another absolutely stunning Cuneiform and Guapo album, one that will give me further enticement to check them out live yet another time (seen them four times already) at this year when they return to this year's RIO fest.

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 History Of The Visitation by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.01 | 70 ratings

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History Of The Visitation
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars There are times, just times you understand, when I question my sanity. Having now played this album a few times I wonder how can anyone enjoy listening to music where it is at the very edge of the definition? I can honestly say that I don't think that I would have listened to this all the way through when I was younger ? like broad beans and brussel sprouts this is something that is almost exclusively the preserve of those who are older and can savour the experience. The band has been going for 19 years, and currently comprises drummer and founding member David J. Smith with mainstays Kavus Torabi (Cardiacs, Knifeworld) on guitar and James Sedwards (Nøght) on bass, joined by recent addition Emmett Elvin (Chrome Hoof, Knifeworld) on keyboards.

Now as soon as I see the name Cardiacs I sit up and pay attention, and have also enjoyed what I have heard from Knifeworld, but it is fair to say that these guys understanding of music here (the label helpfully provides some references such as controlled chaos, atonal harmony, uplifting darkness, and beautiful destruction) is quite different to many. They seem to mix RIO with prog, and while King Crimson is a fairly obvious reference it is possible to also bring Magma, Univers Zero, elements of Can, The Mars Volta etc. easy listening this isn't.

This instrumental album only contains three songs, and the first of these is twenty six minutes long so it is heads down and see you at the end. There are large similarities with free jazz, although never quite veering into that territory although reedmen Thomas Scott and Dave Newhouse from Maryland avant jazz-rock institution The Muffins are some of the guests taking part. The label describes this as "Sun Ra jamming with Stravinsky", and if that makes you believe that this can be hard work to listen to, yet ultimately rewarding, then you would be right. This will only appeal to a small part of the music buying public, but those who enjoy finding something different need to investigate further. www.cuneiformrecords.com

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 Black Oni by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.01 | 68 ratings

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Black Oni
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Bj-1
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars After the brilliant '5 Suns', we get deeper and darker into Guapo's bag of Magma/KC/Univers Zero inspired tricks. The result is equally intense and powerful but with greater care of dynamics within the pieces, as well as a knack for more unpredictable song patterns. An uneasy ride, yet highly intruging in it's suspense. Onto the tracks:

I Recalls Univers Zero's 'La Faulx' with similar droning and feedback to create a tense and hellish effect on the listener; if you listen closely, the deliciously ominous harmonium lurks perfectly in the background just like on the UZ piece and things start to get slightly noisy. A sudden demented Krimson?ish riff smash in front of you without warning for a minute and by now you got a nice taster on what to expect here before seguing into the 2nd part to really start this dark journey off..

II A nearly 12 minute suite containing everything I could ever dream of in a dark avant-prog composition; twisted riffs and bizarre time-sigs directly from the UZ school delivered with merciless power from the band. An eerie harmonium interlude introduces us to the main theme melody of the album for a short time before the band fades back in with more madness up the sleeve that result in an amazing climax at the end. The dynamic and ideas in this piece definitely makes this in my top 5 favorite songs from this band and they did nail that UZ and Present vibe right on the head.

III Only two main sections in this song but used to a massively great effect. A strangely hypnotic piano interlude is introduced and calms the listener down for a few minutes until suddenly you'll notice the riff progresses into something slightly more deranged. Marching bass and drums follows and the band breaks into classic frantic Zeuhl territory in 7/8 with some crazy atonal soloing from O'Sullivan before dropping into darkness yet again. Another excellent piece overall!

IV Electronic effects and distant cymbals for about five minutes, it's like entering a cold, quiet and alien universe. Usually people's least favorite piece but works fairly well as a bridge to the conclusion piece. I really miss some eerie harmonium here though...

V Starts out like a powerhouse similar to the best moments of Part II and III and even featuring some tasty mellotron similar to Krimson's 'Starless' before going completely into sonic horror territory with the albums main theme. The effect is bombastic and even scary and leads the album to a close similar to how it opened. At 13 minutes I really hoped they could have mixed this one up a little bit more, like the 2nd part, but instead it goes back to the (excellent, mind you) sonic terror drones of '5 Suns'. Still a great piece, but somewhat anti-climactic.

4.7 - rounded up. Essential for fans of dark RIO/Avant. Their knack for mixing old with the new is unique and Guapo remains one of the better bands in the genre. A personal favorite!

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 Black Oni by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.01 | 68 ratings

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Black Oni
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

4 stars BLACK ONI is Guapo's statement to the music world that their breakout FIVE SUNS is not a one-shot attempt, and they even dare to progress a bit from the FIVE SUNS. If that album was mostly RIO crossed with Zeuhl with a bit of Crimson for taste, BLACK ONI runs in more of a post-rock direction that bolsters the already fresh sound of Guapo. They also kept things in relative taste as just the BLACK ONI epic (in five sections) appears on the album. It allows for better focus on the heart of the epic as the two end pieces of FIVE SUNS were rather distracting.

''Part IV'' is really where the slight sonic adjustments were made from FIVE SUNS to BLACK ONI. It is essentially tonal post-symphonic rock that sets the mood and tension. Unlike the minute of silence after the epic on the last album, the quietude allows for a breather to prepare for the intensity of the final part of the epic.

BLACK ONI establishes itself a competent equal for FIVE SUNS, but in the long run doesn't quite overshadow its predecessor enough to grab the spotlight. The two are like brother and sister albums.

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 Black Oni by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.01 | 68 ratings

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Black Oni
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Progfan97402

5 stars I am so blown away by this CD! I had found a used copy of this CD at a Eugene, Oregon record store for cheap. I couldn't believe I found a Guapo CD (Eugene isn't exactly a bastion of obscure prog in record stores, but they do appear out of the nowhere from time to time), and although I heard of them for a few years, this is my first try at them and I am ever so glad I did! Black Oni was their followup to Five Suns, and actually features the same lineup of bassist Matt Thompson, drummer Dave Smith, and keyboardist Daniel O'Sullivan. Matt Thompson is the brother of Andy Thompson, he of Litmus, and most importantly, the Planet Mellotron website. It should come as no surprise the Mellotron on this album is Andy's, since he is a Mellotron owner.

For those who want to play it safe, pretty much want to stay in the Marillion safety zone, you'll be running like hell listening to this! It's harsh, abrasive, with a doomy feel too it. Angular guitar riffs, heavily fuzzed bass, and lots of electric piano, and Mellotron on the fifth and final part. This is no doubt RIO. This stuff is heavily influenced by the more extreme King Crimson with the angular guitar riffs, Magma with the heavily fuzzed bass, and Univers Zero with that doomy feel overall. Also I noticed a bit of a Canterbury feel at times, whenever O'Sullivan uses some nice dreamy use of the electric piano, which really seems at odds with the noisy, often heavily distorted guitar and fuzz bass, but I love this approach, so I'm not complaining. This brand of prog is certainly not for everyone. But I love the intensity this group gives here, with some great drumming from Dave Smith too. At just 43 minutes, it's just right, so the music never overstays its welcome. For the average neo-prog fan, stay away, but for those who like the more extreme end of prog, you need this CD!

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 Black Oni by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.01 | 68 ratings

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Black Oni
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Guapo's Black Oni is much in the same vein as the preceding Five Suns - an intoxicating blend of mid-1970s King Crimson, early Univers Zero, classic-era Magma and a whole bunch more besides. Once again, the band take a Magma-inspired approach to compositional structure, producing an album-length suite which is full of twists and turns and remains vivid and entertaining right to the end, and on the whole I think there's a bit more of a Univers Zero vibe about this one than the previous one, but really they're much of a muchness - if you like one, you'll like the other, if you don't like one you'll most likely like neither.

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 Five Suns by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.11 | 109 ratings

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Five Suns
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Sure, the influences of Guapo might be fairly typical for RIO bands - Magma, the mid-1970s incarnation of King Crimson and Univers Zero - but it's the way they bring these influences together on Five Suns which makes it such a fun trip. You have the Magma influence in the deep, pulsating rhythms and the epic song structures (the main event here being a 45 minute track), you have the wild guitar excursions and Mellotron-mania of Red-era King Crimson, and you have the mysterious and frightening aesthetic of Univers Zero, all brought together in an avant-prog attack which will also appeal to many symphonic prog listeners.

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 Towers Open Fire  by GUAPO album cover Studio Album, 1997
2.17 | 8 ratings

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Towers Open Fire
Guapo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Towers Open Fire' - Guapo (3/10)

The 90's in rock music represented a bitter rebellion against the overproduced glitz of the decade prior. Although few bands would take the dissonance and fuzz as far as Guapo, it was not unprecedented for an artist to give their music a darker atmosphere. In the case of Guapo's experimental rock debut 'Towers Open Fire', the best word to describe it may be 'jarring'. Bringing in a bevy of sounds from every corner of the ugly spectrum, this is a difficult and inaccessible listen. That does not mean however, that there is much depth to the sound. Although Guapo's ambition to hurt their listeners' ears is admirable, with each listen to 'Towers Open Fire', the failed mixture of noise, hardcore punk, and jazz fusion only gets more irritating to listen to.

Guapo's sound may be compared to 90's era King Crimson, without the technical proficiency. They most reminded me of the Japanese noise rock act Zeni Geva, however scarce of KK Null's samurai yell and distinctive charm. For a three piece, Guapo can certainly get a lot of sounds going at once. Sadly, none of them are particularly well done, and many are downright unpleasant to listen to. Matt Thompson's vocals are not so much 'singing' as what I might liken to the sound of a drunk British teenager yelling at authority figures. The bass sparks an interesting thought or two- an eerie passage on 'Ceasefire Ends' illustrates this- but it's more than usually flooded over by guitars and waves of sharp electronic noise. Although 'Towers Open Fire' is unsuccessful as an album overall, many of the guitar ideas are quite interesting. Despite being executed in a rough, untuned, punk-like style, there are jazz fusion chords at work. It makes for a surprising dichotomy.

Had Guapo simply been composed of a bass, guitar, and uncoordinated drums, I would dismiss the work as amateurish and mediocre, but not 'bad'. Where 'Towers Open Fire' really goes wrong is with the electronic 'ambiance'. Dissonance has alot of untapped potential for emotional impact and power, but the noise here evokes only a dull pain inside my skull that some people like to call a headache. Not only that, but the ideas come together in such an incoherent way; although Guapo may repeat ideas, they're never concise enough to make for memorable songwriting, and never drawn out enough to create a sense of atmosphere. In short, 'Towers Open Fire' has ambition, but it falls short on virtually every front. To many people, this will be unlistenable, but even for someone open- minded enough to confront the ugly textures and freeform structure, it is difficult to recognize any depth underneath the shell. I won't say that Guapo's debut is utterly terrible, but for the effort a listener will have to put into this album, there is very little payoff.

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