Extremely rarely do contradicting ideas end up complimenting each other. Artists have visions of moulding, twisting and spewing out sounds; explicitly showing their artistic nature. However, artists are perfectionist and evolving a sound takes precision and is honestly extremely difficult. So when a band comes around that have successfully been able to do so- they’ve got to be something special.
Gumshen have managed to bring progressive, rock and electronic styles all together- and while it should be a toxic combination, it is instead just completely intoxicating. On ’Progtronica’, their sixth studio album, the Seattle-based band have excelled above and beyond, blending the three genres seamlessly in each song. Times have changed from their hard rock ‘Anonymous’ EP in 2007. They have started to explore the use of keyboards and computer-generated sounds that push the boundaries, creating a phenomenal album that merges their original rock and roll sound with an electronic, progressive style. Their music speaks in rhythmic, catchy tones that are just irresistible, no matter what your taste.
From the outset, the catchy but thought-provoking ‘Bell Ringer’ showcases the band’s ability to infuse both electronica and classic rock. The track begins with Ron Hippe playing the keys and showcasing some impressive vocals alongside Dennis McCoy on the drums- straightaway we’re captivated by the supremely catchy varying electronic tones. It immediately sets the vibrant and exciting mood that this album creates. The lively, moving tune underlying the song is emphasized at moments were the keyboard and sound effects take hold and give off a dub step style vibe; then contrasted when Jan Ciganik and Ron Hippe’s intoxicating guitar riffs come into play. Gumshen follow through this electric, vibrant style throughout the EP. Even on the second track ‘Stipulation’ which begins with an eerier, darker sound and progresses towards the lively electronic beats seen in ‘Bell Ringer’. The song has a classic rock feeling underlying, however the dub step influences are clear and it’s clear that the band really mean it when they say they get their inspiration from everything from ‘Radiohead to simplicity of pop music like Phoenix, Franz Ferdinand to huge sounds of dub step’. ‘Fine one to talk’ is the one track that gives off a calm, classic indie-rock vibe due to the soft strumming’s of the acoustic guitar and relaxing vocals from Ron Hippe. However, it still fits the overall vibrant and lively style of the album. ‘Liquid’ and ‘Bait and Switch’ once again bring back the strong electronic overtones, with hypnotising vocals and bass lines that you just can’t help put dance to. Finally, ‘Fragile We Are Castles’ really brings a progressive and electronic vibe to the forefront, with pulsing beats and only some extremely subtle piano playing to clash with the overall electronic aura the song gives off.
The tracks all complement each other to create the lively, energetic vibe Gumshen are clearly after. Six albums in, Gumshen prove that they have a formula that’s almost unbreakable and making them one of the best progressive rock bands around. ‘Progtronica’ is a musically intriguing album and definitely worth giving a listen.