This is indeed an age of exploration in progressive music. While the majority of music under this moniker is concerned with new harmonic and (especially) rhythmic possibilities, GEPH undertake to add timbre to the mix by using the aurally and ergonomically accessible yet ‘otherly’ instrument that is the Chapman Stick. And not just one. GEPH is a three-piece from Boston, MA, made up of a drummer and two Chapman Stick players. The band formed in 2014 and has gained popularity and success since; we here at It Djents are certainly fans (see them in our Flashback 2016: Instrumental Prog feature here). With one album under their belt and still going strong, we can continue to expect great things. Here’s my take on a few moments from their upcoming album, Apophenia.
The album starts with “Back From Space Earth”, a track that showcases the timbral variety of the band’s unique orchestration. Many electric guitarists across the spectrum of genres today strive to achieve ‘big’ sounds, approaching tones akin to the unique combinations of stops available on an organ. While combining delay pedals, gain, patches on amp modelers, and other effects is one way to do this, GEPH‘s approach is more organic, with layers produced by multiple tracks on instruments that naturally sound closer to organ tones. The tap-style playing is also more ‘digital’, wherein the fingers are more directly connected to the sound production.
“Back From Space Earth” also reveals the band’s affinity for metric and rhythmic variety. The opening cycle contains measures that alternate between 15 and 14 sixteenth notes, executed very smoothly and without contrivance by drummer Josh Merhar. The cycle is all the more interesting because the two-measure groups (15/16 and 14/16) are organized harmonically into three-measure groups, creating hypermetrical dissonance. Additionally, the sustained tones in the upper register return every four measures, changing their context with each measure. It’s quite the aural banquet for 28 seconds of music. And by the time the full cycle is completed, the band adds more layers, allowing the ambitious listener to process more upon repeated listenings.
The first single from Apophenia is the groove-driven “Whole Body Headbang”. This groove is equal parts Tool and Mission: Impossible, with its prominent bass line and three-note descending motive. As the track progresses, it passes through loud, densely textured passages, but it always finds its way back to its core. It is an interesting release as a single, because, to me, it does not sound like a very gripping or unique track; yet, this works in the band’s advantage. It is a true representation of a typical moment on the album. If you are a fan of this track, you will love the remainder of them.
Other highlights on the album include the ambient track “Little Guy”, or the use of noise and sampling on tracks like “Macroaggressions” and “W.W.F.D”. The band does not shy away from non-isochronous time signatures, chromatic harmonies, and timbral exploration. What I found lacking was a greater sense of purpose within a given track or the album as a whole. I was wanting for a climactic build to a high-volume, unison, driving riff at the conclusion of a song that would perhaps be reiterated later in the album to tie it all together. As with most of my criticism, it is subjective and may not have been within the artistic design that the members of GEPH had in mind. Despite this, Apophenia is an extremely enjoyable album in individual parts and is a must-have for the connoisseur of instrumental prog.
Notable Tracks: “Back From Space Earth”; “Macroaggressions”; “Whole Body Headbang”
FFO: Evan Brewer, Liquid Tension Experiment, Animals as Leaders