Guapo – Black Oni (CD)

You remember when the Flaming Lips put out that four-CD set that was supposed to be started all at the same time and played in four stereos? Well, “Black Oni” is sort of like that, the second release in a trilogy of albums by Guapo. This album gives the listening base a feel for Guapo, who seem to play a much more sedate brand of experimental music, sort of like Upsilon Acrux. The music is more along the lines of classical symphonies, using only a host of instruments to create and modify emotions throughout the disc. Something that comes out strongly throughout “Black Oni” is a focus by the band on structutre, whether it be through the largely-martial drumming of Dave or the more technical playing of Matt. Surprisingly, the movements all feel the same length, even though their run-times vary greatly. For example, the first movement is the runt of the disc, clocking in at 3:33 while the behemoth fifth movement almost breaks thirteen minutes, and yet both end as easily and as calmly as if they both were three minutes. The third movement feels cut from a different cloth; the extremely-lengthy piano opening makes the disc restart and take an entirely different style.

The slow movement into “III” allows for a much more magnificent sound to bubble up to the surface, with the entirety of Guapo assuming a much more radio-friendly style (even if the pacing of the track, all 10 minutes would block all but the most innovative stations from playing it). While the styles are as far apart as two bands can get, the power and energy of “III” seems to draw from the same source as the brash and forward style of early Dead Kennedys, unafraid to offend with unfamiliar structures.

“Black Oni” is a very deep album, and a casual listen will not unearth a fraction of the secrets that this disc has. Guapo has made an album that will stand the test of time and will, thirty or forty years down the road be recreated by a philharmonic, instead of just listened to by the tiniest of fragments. What is most exhilarating about “Black Oni” are the tremendously different directions that Guapo can take, from the radio-friendly nature of “III” or the dark, noisy and frankly scary atmosphere of IV and yet relegate everything on the disc into the framework of one work.

Top Track: III

Rating: 7.2/10

Guapo – Black Oni / 2005 Ipecac / 5 Tracks / / / Reviewed 10 April 2005

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