FAME Review: Guitaro - JJ's Crystal Palace
Guitaro - JJ's Crystal Palace

JJ's Crystal Palace


Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

The trio of Jeremy Unrau, Heather Warkentin, and Mark Wiebe, Guitaro, fashions an often mellow but sometimes heavy trance-groove rocking CD of progressive variations and intelligent extrapolations in its sophomore release, JJ's Crystal Palace. The opening cut, Hill Mountain, layers echoey recessed vocals below massive shining guitar chords and gauzy timbres. Don't think that metal is by any means their raison d'être, however, because the second track, Chateau 100, lays back into a restrainedly airy magisteriality that dominates the disc, 70s-oriented atmospherics a la the more seriously fantastical combos of that elder era. There's also a very noticeable element of the oblique sophistications of Massive Attack floating through the entire repertoire.

A number of ongoing experimental modes come to resolution in Guitaro's work, not the least of which is the crucial factor in how to make everything hang together without sounding like a windblown porridge, a difficult reconciliation not many groups achieve so harmonically. In many ways, the vocals, surprisingly enough, are the lynch pin, stapling the environments to a mid-range control that reaches back into the pulsing bottom end of the compositions while simultaneously leaning forward into an upper register of clouds and clear air turbulence. No sooner does Chateau lull the listener than the trey cut, Blastok, leaps into stuttery synth paranoia a la Pink Floyd's The Wall, revving up the decay of a romance gone south, earthbound lament to pull the celestial strains back closer to the moment.

JJ's Crystal Palace is Romantic Goth progrock painted with overlapping vistas of fog and sunlight, ennui and exhilaration, pastels and earth tones. By the advent of 2085, I realized the release was almost the diametric opposite of Sipo's stunning Year of the Rose, yet of a family with that masterpiece blent with elements of John and Karen Orsi's various collectives (Knitting by Twilight, Overflower, Herd of Mers, etc.). Packed with beauty and sadness, pastorality and over-the-cliff momentum (Plastic Bags), this little gem and its abstract say-nothing cover is going to surprise a lot of adventurous audiences.

Track List:

  • Hill Mountain
  • Chateau 100
  • Blakstok
  • 2085
  • Come Get Sums
  • Truth Hertz
  • Toothpaste
  • Make You
  • Modulo
  • Plastic Bags
All songs written by Guitaro.

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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