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History of the Visitation

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Album Review

Now a quartet with drummer David J. Smith the only original member, Guapo have become firmly identified with the 21st century resurgence of Rock in Opposition avant-prog. Whether Guapo consciously considered themselves part of the RIO lineage from the start, they seem willing to draw from the dark side of that lineage on 2013's CD/DVD set History of the Visitation — while incorporating myriad other musical elements into their proggy instrumental blend. The five-minute buildup of ominous orchestral tones and textures comprising the "Visitation" intro to 26-plus-minute album centerpiece/behemoth "The Pilman Radiant" culminates in a slow and eerie melodic fragment echoing not only a similar bit from "Jeweled Turtle," the leadoff track to Guapo's previous album, 2008's Elixirs, but also the equally unsettling start to "The Funeral Plain" from Heatwave, the 1986 album by darkly hued RIO co-founders Univers Zero. A deep irregular throbbing drone underpins sustained metallic oscillations — as at least some of the album's seven guest musicians on a variety of reeds, brass, and strings are slowly buried by the onslaught — before "The Divine Vessel" continues the suite with initially waltzy understatement; the Fender Rhodes of new keyboardist Emmett Elvin (replacing Daniel O'Sullivan) is supported by drummer Smith and bassist James Sedwards before guitarist Kavus Torabi burns his way into the arrangement with a sustained tone and deliberate ascending melodic line.

Elvin rips into dramatic organ chords before the band plunges into a full-on rapid-tempo bridge and a rhythmically shifting space jam melding the introduction's ambient roar with an insistent hard rock pound and Fripp-ish repeating guitar line. "The Pilman Radiant" alternately slams, gallops, (intentionally) stumbles, and floats through its second half before returning to its midpoint theme, as Guapo display their affinity for "Larks' Tongues" and "Fracture"-era Crimson over Univers Zero's more chamberesque side. "Complex #7" is another dark ambient foray into the "Visitation" zone, but the concluding "Tremors from the Future" is an altogether different machine, cruising through uptempo and even catchy segments — Elvin's staccato attack on the keys would be downright funky if he were playing a clavinet. The companion DVD of Guapo live (with O'Sullivan on keys) is dominated by a very professional multi-camera video — in arty black-and-white — of the band performing "Five Suns" at NEARfest 2006; the performance careens toward proggy bombast, with Torabi in particular throwing himself into his (foot)work. Despite its inferior single-camera video (but fine audio mixing/mastering by Udi Koomran), the band's sparkle-shirted performance of Elixirs' "King Lindorm" at France's RIO festival the following year is a more nimble affair, with a greater measure of "avant" poured back into Guapo's avant-prog mix.

Biography

Formed: 1994

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Prolific British avant-proggers Guapo have released numerous albums and EPs since forming in 1994. Despite often changing from one release to the next, or in some cases, from one song to the next, their style has maintained basic reference points including France's Magma (whom they name-checked in one album title), Japan's Ruins (with whom they recorded an album), and groups of the Rock in Opposition scene, including Present and Univers Zero. The band's lineup has undergone many changes as well,...
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History of the Visitation, Guapo
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