REVIEW: Gumshen – ‘Progtronica’

gumshen

Artist: Gumshen
Album: Progtronica
Genre: Electronic, Rock, Progressive

Seattle, Washington’s Gumshen had released one EP each year since 2007 until it came time to work on their newest effort, the one that finally broke the annual cycle. Progtronica may have taken a little more time to develop than its predecessors but I think it’s safe to say that the patience that went into the process was worthwhile as Gumshen’s most recent release is arguably their most impressive, even if it is a mixed bag of eclectic styles — but hell, their entire catalog is really.

Progtronica opens with an inviting, airy synth in “Bell Ringer” before a heavy kick drum begins pounding to the forefront of the track, soon accompanied by vocals that lead you through the rest of its 7-minute runtime. Just before reaching the one-minute mark, “Bell Ringer” bursts into an energetic romp of upbeat, dance-inducing club vibes somewhat reminiscent of acts like Cut Copy and Chromeo. As this would likely become very wearing alone for 7 minutes, the song luckily journeys through varied tonal changes as it introduces more instrumental work and tempo dives, keeping the listener’s interest for the most part.

“Stipulation” is much more accessible to a casual listener with a fun, bright production and vocals that are much more fitting for the material than found on the EP’s opener. The second track still offers a highly danceable sound with some creative arrangement choices that keep it fresh throughout, likely easier with this cut as it’s much shorter than the first, even at four-and-a-half minutes. Try not to nod your head and smile once the Reggie Watts-like 2:53-mark hits. “Stipulation” is a stand-out.

And speaking of stand-outs–if these six tracks were physical manifestations, you’d do a double or triple-take when meeting “Fine One To Talk” following an introduction to its two predecessors. This song will no doubt catch you off guard. It opens with a big vocal delivery and folky, country-like guitars before getting a dramatic string layer added that takes it above and beyond, eventually including soaring guitars, keyboards, and an overall eerie ambience that ends up sounding like some kind of Pink Floyd cover (in the best possible way). The Sesame Street song “One Of These Things (Is Not Like The Others)” shall be referenced here.

Following the epic that is “Fine One To Talk,” the EP reverts back mainly to electronic elements with the spacial, breakbeat-to-big-beat, Beck-like “Liquid,” the filthy, industrial and (luckily) shortest offering “Bait & Switch,” and the closer “Fragile We Are Castles,” the longest track and one that shows the most versatility from the band in one cut. We hear some of the actual musicianship involved in “Fine One To Talk” but it’s all on display in this lengthy but enjoyable jam to wrap up Progtronica‘s many facets. Spanning areas of prog-rock that could appeal to fans of everything from the almighty RUSH and King Crimson to Between The Buried and Me and An Endless Sporadic (for you Guitar Hero fans), “Fragile We Are Castles” is imposing on all accounts and a perfect way to end this release with something that will resonate with you for some time.

Despite the disruption in the flow of styles that leads to a feeling that there’s a lack of cohesion among these six tracks, Gumshen have thrown together some really interesting creations, and even as they may not appear to work together entirely, they still all have their merits individually, with a couple cuts being far more memorable than others. The third and final tracks alone are worth your time here but it’s very likely that you’ll find more to enjoy beyond those two as you explore the others that make up the whole of Progtronica.

SCORE: 7.6/10
Review written by: Brian Lion — (Follow him on Twitter)

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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