Release Date: 2004

Track Listing
1)  Five Suns part 1
2)  Five Suns part 2
3)  Five Suns part 3
4)  Five Suns part 4
5)  Five Suns part 5
6 )  A House That Bit Him
7)  Mictlan
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8)  Topan
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Member: Did Sprinting Die?
Date: 11/10/2004

After a resonant crash of a gong, the dance began. The scraps of paper (hand-tinted newspaper photos of laboring children) did a two-step as the pianist improvised, freely. A leg protruded from the lid. The pianist went on. The bass player pulled human remnants from the strings, creating more of a thud than a thwack or a slap. The drummer, who had spent the first minute silent, was decapitated by a shoe that had flown from the foot of a dancer. He flailed about wildly in his seat in this final moment; densely hitting rims and symbols in an uncountable meter. The pianist kept improvising, the headless drummer drummed, and the bassist pulled the drummers head from his string. All this as a woodcut print of the Virgin Mary did a skip-framed dance atop a pole before falling off. The chord of death chimed from a mysterious synthesizer. The drummer was replaced, and then the bass pounded louder and louder as the drummer began to try to imitate the bass player. Soon the music became a wreck of distorted burning wood and the natural order of things couldn't take it, and started to short out. Then a new and identical universe was created with the flash of a glitchy electronic sound, and we were back to the strike of the gong. This time, though, there was an organist who held down a tone cluster, and the dance stopped.

And this is just the first movement of Guapo's Five Suns. This British trio has successfully taken a time tested disformula called 'Zeuhl', and poured it on some decade-old instruments (mellotrons, Hammond B-3s, Fender Rhodes, Rickenbacker bass) to create possibly the greatest album conceived in the year 2004. It doesn't just take the Magma path, it also samples a bit of New York no wave, mid-70's era King Crimson, and old-school minimalism. There are 8 tracks on this album, none under five minutes with the exception of the first movement of the smashed "monster" piece title cut, and a minute of silence preceding it. The piece is five movements (each movement being another sun), the first is the little wild bit I set to text above, the second is what seems to be the main theme backed up by a Zeuhl-y ostinato that evolves into some more little themes here and there. The third movement has more improv madness, the fourth has musical instruments screaming in pain, and the fifth is a 5/4 stomp on the little theme from the second movement with some Riley-isms here and there. Mictlan is a cool little ditty that kind of reminds me of "Malawelekaahm" (at least I think that's what the name of that little piece that begins Theuhz Haamtaahk.) ¡°Topan¡± is a soft goodbye well suited for an album on full throttle the whole time. This album gets my highest recommendation.
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Member: Pnoom
Date: 9/25/2007


One of the biggest complaints I have about the general reaction to zeuhl music not by Magma is that it is constantly labeled derivative. Of all the zeuhl bands I’ve heard, only Koenjihyakkei is close enough to Magma to be called derivative (though they are as close to Magma as they are by choice), and even Koenjihyakkei doesn’t sound much like Magma, taking a far more schizophrenic approach to zeuhl music. In fact, this is the general trend in non-Magma zeuhl music. The music itself tends to be similar to Magma in structure but entirely different in overall effect. For example, Eskaton wrote music meant to incite the people, taking the lyrics down to the people’s level and using them to raise awareness about issues, whereas Magma wrote lyrics that, because they were in another language, were destined to sail over listeners’ heads. Weidorje, another so-called “Magma clone,” turned Magma’s Zeuhl on its head, changing the grim (if “celestial,” as zeuhl is translated to) moods of Magma into positively happy grooves. Happy Family, to the extent that they are zeuhl, take influence from Magma but infuse it into their own mix of adrenaline, unique drum rhythms, adrenaline, metallic sensibilities, and adrenaline. As for Guapo, one of the best of the best modern zeuhl bands, rather than making celestial music, as Magma did, their music comes straight from the bowels of Hell.

The oppressive moods created on Five Suns are probably the dominant feature of the album, or, at least, the most notable. They jump at you right from the start with the cymbal and gong heavy intro of “Five Suns (I)” and only get stronger as we move through the fantastic zeuhl odyssey of the entire “Five Suns” epic. For forty-five minutes, we move through a heavenly array of musical themes, each connected perfectly to the last. The musicianship is top notch, not flashy, but certainly capable of impressing, especially the drummer. Like Christian Vander, he is able to hold your attention no matter what he is doing, especially since what he is doing is generally fast and dynamic, never allowing you to sink into a sense of sameness. This contrasts nicely with the use of repetition you’d expect from zeuhl music and which Guapo certainly deliver. This repetition does not go overboard, however; no themes are repeated until they are stale. Instead, they are developed and then replaced by a new theme. Occasionally, themes developed in one piece will manifest themselves in another, giving the piece a true sense of being one song rather than five. Often times, the music will break out into an all-out assault in a way that Magma never did, nearing punk rock while remaining complex.

After the long epic which dominates the album (and which maybe should have been the entire album) comes a minute of silence, followed by two shorter pieces. While both of them are excellent, even to the extent that they compete with the “Five Suns” epic in terms of overall quality, it is debatable whether they belong on the album. They lack the all around unity of the title epic, making this album feel less like a cohesive whole. On the other hand, they are amazing songs and I love them both dearly. For right now, I’m not sure whether I think they should have been placed on the album or not. The only things I can say for sure is that they are on the album and nothing can change that and that the album as it stands is a masterpiece of modern music. “Mictian” is similar to the “Five Suns” suite but more aligned musically with Magma, especially in its jazz influences, which are largely toned down on the rest of the album. It carries over the assault type sections of “Five Suns” and mixes them with slower sections to create a nice contrast. In one section, I even hear some of John Zorn’s album Naked City, which surprised me. It’s not too prominent, just a similarity between some of the effects used in “Mictian” and those used to open Zorn’s cover of the James Bond theme. It really isn’t noteworthy, but as a Zorn fan (in the literal sense of fanatic), I found the similarity interesting. “Topan,” the closer, is a more relaxed piece that gives your ears a rest after the musical beating it just took. Despite this, it remains interesting and engaging, a stellar cool down for a stellar album.

Overall, Guapo’s Five Suns proves that the U.K. band is a force to be reckoned with in the modern avant-garde/zeuhl world. They are sure to please fans of Magma without being derivative of the band, as with the best non-Magma zeuhl bands. This is engaging, dynamic music for the fan of complex, challenging music that is still pleasing on the ears. Unlike Magma, Guapo eschew vocals, preferring to let the music speak for itself, and it is safe to say that this music announces itself as some of the best to come out of the modern zeuhl scene. This is for fans of music, not just fans of zeuhl. Even if you don’t like Magma, you can still like this because, chances are, the aspects of Magma you didn’t like are absent here. I do not propose that Guapo rival Magma, but I must admit that they are a much easier entrance into the magical world of zeuhl than Magma. I give this album a resounding A (masterpiece). One of my favorite modern albums. Don’t wait to get it!
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