Gu Vo is a trio from Seville, Spain, made up of Edu Escobar (drums), Raúl Burrueco (bass), and Alejandro Ruiz (synthesizers and vocals). Individually, they’re all experienced musicians with backgrounds in shoegaze, krautrock, and more. Together under this moniker and with this Self-Titled debut album, we hear them exploring a propulsive brand of electronic psychedelia and motorik rock.
For an initial insight into the stylistic territory they’re traversing here; I was doing a quick bit of research and wondering what to write about, when I discovered that, in addition to a band and album name, Gu Vo is also a location (after which, I thought, the band is surely named) – it’s a village in the Tohono O’odham Reservation in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, USA. You already know the imagery: rugged mountains, saguaro cacti, sidewinder rattlesnakes, and indigenous folk who proudly proclaim that there’s no word for ‘wall’ in their traditional languages.
Plenty of bands have availed themselves of those images, of course, including an abundance of stoner and (duh) desert rock bands. And if you want to see if this music fits, simply find some YouTube footage of a Sonoran Desert road trip to watch while you listen to the album (nice and loud of course).
It kinda works, with its evocative and sometimes harsh synth psych flavours, and its urgent motorik rhythms, but what if we were to take a different tack? What if you were to press play on opening track, The Landing, and your mind went in a completely different direction?
First, you’d hear the harsh, droning, fuzzy synths, followed by a bass guitar playing a simple repetitive figure – your mind might be filled with uncanny visual images of vivid contrasts and strong black shadows. Maybe the drums kick in, with their relentless motorik filling your head with an inescapable feeling of movement and pursuit. The synths switch from grinding to swirling, and you realise that maybe that movement is taking place at night. It’s raining. There are people everywhere, hunched under umbrellas as they hurry through a claustrophobic mess of buildings and vehicles. Distant, heavily reverbed vocals drift through the rippling synths, and you notice that the streetscape is lit primarily by neon signs, and the fluorescent glow from a noodle bar. There’s a tense bridge, and the bass continues its indefatigably simple lurch.
an album that’s largely instrumental, utterly hypnotic, and clearly intended to take your mind far from its usual daily territory…
When second track Bullitt kicks off, it’s already in top gear, with a grinding fuzzy bass and surging drums. It’s a short track, but before it ends you might picture a woman clad in a clear plastic raincoat, and not much else, fleeing through the night while a man in a trench coat pursues her. He’s brandishing a pistol and clambering on top of taxis to get a viewpoint. He eventually shoots her.
By the time the third track, Crab Ball Gate, announces itself with throbbing synth sounds and yet more hypnotically relentless bass, you might have some idea where I’m going with this: ‘Come in. Sit down. Reaction time is a factor in this, so please pay attention.’ A man in a leather chair takes a drag from his smoke. The chair bears the logo of the Tyrell Corporation.
I dunno – maybe this is all a bit too pretentious for you. Maybe you just want a more straight-up outline of what this album sounds like, and maybe a comparison or two. But for an album that’s largely instrumental, utterly hypnotic, and clearly intended to take your mind far from its usual daily territory, it’s all about the imagery for me. And maybe the images that come to your mind are wildly different from mine, but when I reached the end of the album, I truly expected to hear Roy Batty deliver his famous monologue: ‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…’
A superb album, and truly worth your time.
Scribed by: Rob Bryant