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GOMBO Mu Cephei gets 7/10


Gombo
Mu Cephei
Independent

7/10

After a short hiatus and the addition of a new band member, Gombo have finally released their debut album. The Perth-based, alternative/progressive rock band have been sharing their music locally, and nationally, for 10 years; all while having only released a few EPs. That decade, however, has always been leading them to this point, the release of Mu Cephei. The album’s strengths lie in its blending of vocals, experimental sounds and shifting tempos, boasting a creativity that would make an art student weep with envy. It’s a twisted journey, so buckle up.

Throughout, it is undeniable how experimental and progressive the band have taken their music; first track, Chemical Delay, highlights this fact well. The nine-minute opus sets the tone, presenting an alt-rock landscape that takes you on a journey. There are multiple sections embedded in the song that incorporate lighter vocals, heavier moments that dramatically increase the song’s pacing, and serene instrumentals. Compared to the songs that follow it, perhaps it does too well at acting as the exemplar for the rest of the album – the trailer for what’s to come – rather than as a standalone song. Nevertheless, it demonstrates what Gombo is all about.

Inheritance has some of the best vocal delivery on album. Beginning with a slow build and distorted vocals, then upping the tempo and ferocity of the sound really draws you in. It’s cathartic, it’s poignant and it’s real. The Larrikins deviates slightly, presenting a prog-rock sound. Having already been released as a teaser for the album, the song symbolises what the album is made of: an experimentation with various music styles. Sweet, soft vocals and a jazz-esque melody pleasingly contrast the track’s darker side. Everything is blended together seamlessly, and it sounds right—like it belongs together.

Upside Down 9 plays to their the softer side once again, it’s the part of Gombo’s repertoire that demonstrates their experimental nature. But, at the beginning, it sounds so lovely. Like a bright, sunny, quiet Sunday afternoon; that kind of lovely. Of course, the real flavour of the song comes out in the midst of it; yet that softness is never lost. They’re not afraid to be restrained or hard, distorted or clear. They can even be all four in one go, but they never detach themselves or wipe it away as being unnecessary garbage to foul you. Instead, it’s crafted, experimented, inhabited and then displayed with pride.

Shoulders has been a classic Gombo song for some years now, making it is easy to like, especially when you hear that guitar riff. Compared to the other songs, this one is perhaps the easiest to sing along to. Then the short, 35 second acoustic bite of The Larrikins (Reprise) prepares us for the final one-two blow of Helium Stone and 11-minute closer Dipentum Saga. Given the latter is the longest song in the album, perhaps it isn’t a surprise that it is softer; utilising an acoustic, instrumental sound with light vocals, until, unexpectedly a it turns into a rap-rock hybrid. Like a blend of Mr Bungle (or Mike Patton’s weirder Faith No More moments) with the melodic sensibility of A Perfect Circle, this has all the hallmarks of a great alt-rock record.

JENNIFER MAXWELL

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