Guapo have been making awesome music for over a decade now on avant garde labels such as Cuneiform and Ipecac and now release Twisted Stems on the twisted home of acts like Moss, Wolfmangler and new Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg project, KTL, Aurora Borealis. The offering is a two-track EP clocking in at just a little over 15 minutes, split near equally between the two, and offering a slightly different side to the band. Where more recent efforts like Five Suns and Black Oni have been Fender Rhodes-led, Zeuhl-inspired progressive pieces (building from the meditative, experimental and noise work on records like Death Seed, Hirohito and Great Sage, Equal of Heaven) the two tracks of Twisted Stems are crisp, dark, slow tracks with piano, brushed drums and walking bass offering a distinctly jazzy mood.
It’s not cocktail lounge though, it sounds very much like how Angelo Badalamenti might have soundtracked an evening in the dreamlands of Twin Peaks, somewhere between both the Black and White Lodges as well as the real world. There is a highly comtemplative feel to first track “The Heliotrope”s pensive chord progressions, as percussive sound effects offer disorientating oppositions to the normal created by the jazz trio and the dronings and sustained sounds lurking in the mix.
The only disappointing thing is the fact that there’s only two tracks, which although is thematically perfect (with the two songs acting like teo parts of a larger piece), does leave you wanting more.
As expected there is a distinct step closer to the darkness in “The Selenotrope” (whereas heliotropes are plants which turn to face the sun, a selenotrope achieves growth in response to moonlight) although the overall sound is very similar. The bass steps up a little more, almost taking on the melody with its slighty twisted riff. It is this twisted-ness which seems key to the nature of the EP as the stems of both heliotrope and selenotrope are intertwined, and forces of dark and light combine in a spiritual conversation within the music. Guapo host the spirits magically and the songs, although apparently simple, offer very complex nuances and strong arrangements which benefit from a close listen as well the background one they initially seem to offer. The song’s developments are much more subtle and less epic than Guapo have become known to offer, testament to the progressive nature of the group as they continually develop and move through different ideas, styles and forms. The only disappointing thing is the fact that there’s only two tracks, which although is thematically perfect (with the two songs acting like teo parts of a larger piece), does leave you wanting more. Hopefully the wait for more material wont be too long though as Neurot should be putting out a new record later this year.