Style: Progressive Rock
Release Date: 9 Oct 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram
One of the standard things we critics often do when reviewing music is to compare a particular album to other bands that you're likely to have heard, in order to give you a reference point. I'd do that here but I have no idea who to bring up.
Sure, there's a lot of prog rock here, but Qüassi, from Mendoza, Argentina, don't sound at all like Yes, Genesis or King Crimson, let alone anyone newer. They play entirely instrumental music, but that's not enough to suddenly bring ELP into the mix. There's a lot of psychedelic rock here, so maybe the comparisons should be to bands who mix those two genres, but I didn't hear early Floyd, Hawkwind or even someone like Ozric Tentacles. Perhaps the latter are the closest, but Qüassi aren't as organic and they're nowhere near as reliant on electronics, even on their spacier pieces.
There's a huge amount of jazz here as well, enough of it that I could understand them being described as a jazz band with firm prog influences rather than vice versa, though I don't get the impression that all these songs are improvised jams in the studio, though some songs are looser than others, such as Solitario Spider and Marea. I'm not suggesting that these pieces were planned out meticulously, but I tend to expect pure improvisation to have that recognisable jazz drum sound and the drums here are very confident in where things are going. I often wish I had a deeper grounding in jazz fusion and this is another of those times; I'm sure there are comparisons to be made there.
What I can say is that there are other sounds here, trawled in as needed for a particular song. Vortice could be defined as jazz prog but it's really a sliding scale that veers from lounge music at one end to space rock at the other. Trashilvania has a krautrock feel to it, combining drones and pulses, some of them harsh, into something musical, only for what I presume is a vibraphone to suddenly infuse it all with warmth. That makes for another wild contrast, something that Qüassi handle very well.
Solitario Spider, surely my favourite track here, is led by a melodious guitar that I'd expect to hear in Caribbean music. It repeatedly throws out a melody for the rest of the band to respond to in an array of different ways, which vary wildly. That guitar returns on Matematicofrustrado, which I expected to be a lot more complex given the name (it translates to Frustrated Mathematician), but is still one of my highlights here.
Amapolas is an exotic track, with Egyptian and Indian sounds in the hand drums (and sitar?), though it also finds recognisable melodies. Was that Ravel's Bolero? I think it was. It's an oddity that, given the presence of lounge here, this isn't remotely exotica, merely elements of world music brought into the jazz prog.
I have no idea who any of the musicians are in this band, though their Facebook band photo suggests that there are four of them. While they're all clearly capable, I want to praise whoever's playing vibes because they're a constant gamechanger on an already interesting album. The drummer also deserves special mention for ramping into an outrageous solo on Reverbi, almost without the rest of the band noticing, which is surreal. I like the bass here a lot too, especially on songs like Solitario Spider, when it prowls carefully but confidently.
I liked this a lot, even if it's not remotely easy to pigeonhole. If you like the idea of prog jazz psych, I doubt I need to say much more. If you have no idea what that might sound like and the cover art isn't enough to give you an idea, I recommend checking this album out to see.
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