Guapo have really peaked into my listening ear since hearing their music on Sid Smith’s amazing Podcasts from the Yellow Room a few years ago. And with Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt’s 2012 documentary, Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga about Rock in Opposition. Originally they started out as a duo in the formation of the mid ‘90s by drummer Dave Smith. But then moved to as a trio in the trilogy format with Five Suns, Black Oni, & Elixirs. And as a quartet with the release of 2013’s History of the Visitation.
This year, in which they are celebrating their 20th anniversary, they have released their new album from the Cunieform label that clocks in about 43-minutes which is, the Obscure Knowledge suite. This is a balls-to-the-wall unexpected mind-boggling adventure that the quartet have unleashed as if the volcanoes have erupted at the right exact moment with unexpected time signatures, twists, insane guitar lines done by Kavus Torabi.
It starts off with an alarming signal from Emmett Elvin’s keyboards and effects that give the spooky atmosphere as if the aliens are about to attack. It’s very much like a sci-fi/horror score and then it ascends before Bassist James Sedwards comes in with different tones as the drums and guitar come knocking down the door to make it a spectacular adventure.
There are moments where it’s almost as if the Red-era of King Crimson were having nice juicy hamburgers with Magma, Van Der Graaf Generator, and Frank Zappa as if he was the waiter giving out orders on what they want on their burgers and then conducting the three bands to see where he wants to take them into. And it’s chaotic, weird, surreal, avant-jazz rock, free jazz, and with a dosage of RIO, you know what is about to be expected on what is to come.
But Emmett does this signalizing sound between the Hammond Organ and the Electric Rhodes to give it the right moment where the band go into for a climbing up-and-down momentum. With all of the instruments following him, it’s almost as if he’s giving the signal to say “Now!” Bit by bit, it goes through an ominous climatic atmosphere as Kavus and James create this duel between each other as Dave Smith follows in with his powder keg drumming with thunderstorm crescendos followed by woodwinds creating the sound of nightmares as the tension increases.
The second movement is a droning neo-classical wailing of a crying annihilating ambient/atmospheric futuristic screeching vibration. Keyboards going off the wall into a mental state as it rises up more and more to reach the temperature level like something out of The Faust Tapes and Aphrodite’s Child’s 666. And then, the closing third movement is where everything gets back into place.
The Zeuhl sounds are in the momentum as Emmett’s Rhodes goes into darker places as Kavus’ mellowing minor chords goes with the improvisation. Thumping and erupting moods are excellent concepts on pushing and moving into the next areas. Torabi is showing his technique. Elements of Robert Fripp and Roger Trigaux, it’s almost as if the areas are floating in simultaneously.
Then, they move into some more of the improvisations in chaotic momentum! This is what I call the “Holy Crap!” moment and they are nailing it down! The haywire effects where every ascends into terror as Michael J. York’s woodwinds comes in to give it that shrieking sound a-la David Jackson (Van Der Graaf Generator) style! And the climax will give you goosebumps.
Guapo have scored a huge home run with Obscure Knowledge. Steve Feigenbaum is the Sherlock Holmes of finding amazing bands and artists and reissue hidden treasure when it comes to Cuneiform Records. If you are up for the challenge of ascending into the sounds of Zeuhl, Rock in Opposition, Avant-Jazz Rock, and a dosage of Magma meets Crimson meets Van Der Graaf Geneator, then Obscure Knowledge is the roller-coaster ride of terror that will the hair on the back up of neck from beginning to end.