Tuesday 17 August 2021

Gunshee - Friends Through Here (2021)

Country: Romania
Style: Progressive Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 15 Jul 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

I don't know who's in Gunshee, an instrumental progressive rock band from Bucharest, the capital of Romania, but photos online suggest that they're a trio and it doesn't sound to me like any of them is new to the business. While this is clearly an intricate prog album played by musicians who are easily comfortable enough with their musical ability to experiment a great deal with what they can do with their instruments, especially whoever the particularly adventurous bass player is, this isn't pure prog by any means.

Even if the guitar tone is pretty clean, this isn't more than a stone's throw from a desert rock album, with more than a little psychedelia thrown into the mix. That's especially obvious in the echo effects in The Great Crippler I but it's there from the outset on Inward and Sayid. If you can imagine a stoner rock band trying not to be a stoner rock band, Gunshee may be pretty close to what you're conjuring up. Conversely, if you added copious amounts of fuzz and decreased the complexity of the songs quite severely, this wouldn't be light years away from an ambitious stoner rock band.

That isn't what makes this album rather odd though. Everything here is interesting at the very least, but the album as a whole is quite the patchwork quilt. Sayid follows Inward pretty consistently, but it all starts to change from there. Peaceful Indifference is an acoustic guitar piece that doesn't merely function as an interlude. The two parts of The Great Crippler are prog at its most intricate with quite the jazz influence. Then there's a live track that doesn't sound like a live track, until the audience get to make themselves heard after its done. And it wraps with what sounds like a brief live experiment that doesn't claim to be live. I'm still puzzled as to how this is all supposed to flow.

That's not to say that the songs aren't worthy. They're all fascinating, though that final piece is easily the most dispensable even if it would only shave a minute off the running time.

The best is surely The Great Crippler, though I couldn't elevate one part over the other even if I tossed a coin. I rather like Sayid too and Thomas highlights a real versatility to the band, starting out almost with a gothic vibe and reminding me of the Sisters of Mercy's song Ribbons. It soon underlines that it remains a prog piece though, moving more towards King Crimson in the midsection. It's an odd song that's led by its bass rather than its guitar and very effectively too, even with a wild guitar solo soon into its second half. The bass is notably prominent throughout this album, but it's totally in charge on this one.

And I can't dismiss Peaceful Indifference either, even if it primarily serves as an interlude between an opening pair of desert rock jams and the jazzy prog of The Great Crippler. It has one foot in folk music and the other in the ocean. The guitar here almost sounds like a ukelele and what we initially take as an acoustic interlude gradually becomes the whole piece.

I keep coming back to The Great Crippler though. I've listened to both parts a bunch of times to track what each of the instruments is doing and what I took away from it is how quintessential a prog piece this is. Each of these unknown musicians is doing their own technically impressive thing throughout, but somehow they still gel perfectly as a band as they do it. Whether you focus on the guitar, the bass or even the drums, you'll hear a fascinating piece of music with a different emphasis. And, as that's a little more overt on the first part, you can twist my arm and make me say that's the best thing here, but the second part isn't far behind it at all.

This is one for the adventurous prog fan, which I fully realise ought to be every prog fan but isn't. I'll still puzzle over why what appears to be a debut album was presented in this fashion, and I've docked a point for that, but I'm still eager to here more.

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