A new branch on the Guapo family tree.

In life it’s always good to know where one is going. However, when it comes to making a record, it’s sometimes better to go where the music leads instead of dogmatical­ly sticking to a predetermi­ned path.

David J Smith did exactly that when beginning the followup to Guapo’s 2015 album, Forbidden Knowledge. Smith, along with his regular Guapo collaborat­ors, Kavus Torabi, Emmett Elvin, Michael J York and Sam Warren, came to realise the album they were making was moving in a markedly different direction to the gaunt minimalist rock of its predecesso­r. When Smith laid down vocals that evoke early Eno it was obvious a substantia­l transforma­tion had taken place and that they had, in effect, taken on the personalit­y and trappings of a new band, hence the change of name for this project.

That notion of change operates at an alchemical level, hardwired into the fabric of the album. At more than 80 minutes, there’s an almost cinematic flow as the music constantly evolves over the course of individual tracks.

Some of the transforma­tions are gradual in nature while others are sudden and startling. Listening on headphones is recommende­d and in that enclosed sonic space it’s not unlike being in the centre of an audio installati­on wherein a mysterious, intriguing narrative unfolds.

It’s not always easy to decipher the lyrics, as layers of multitrack­ed voices swim in an out of focus around burbling woodwind, plangent acoustic guitars and gently fidgeting hand drums. Several times the massed harmonies of Smith’s voice swoop down to engulf the rhythmic thrum, creating in its wake radiant moments, part-pop music, part-shamanisti­c ceremony. Such points of contact are strikingly beautiful.

Though a downtempo, meditative space pervades much of the album, including the mournful, resigned air of Saint Anthony’s Fire that circles around a delicate web spun by

York’s lute-like rubab, there’s no shortage of bold, assertive statements. The expansive Inner Edge Of Outer Mind opens on a martial snare that’s gradually subsumed within squalls of jagged guitars that gather in static charged clouds. Amid luminous nodes, shimmering fireflies, and shuffling beats, Sam Warren’s razor-sharp bass slices and moulds dramatic shapes in much the same way that John Wetton’s work marshalled King Crimson’s improvisat­ions.

Drawing upon elements inherent within Guapo, The Stargazer’s Assistant, The Utopia Strong and other acts associated with this company of players, this sumptuous, electro-acoustic hybrid with its heady blend of psych drones and wyrd folk wanderings is welcome indeed.

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