I don’t feel like it’s too much to say that Gazpacho is one of the most important modern progressive bands. In a genre that, despite the name “progressive”, can be self defeating, Gazpacho truly seeks to push the envelope, both conceptually and musically. Over the last few years, they’ve refined a specific sound- atmospheric, haunting and ephemeral- that is unique to them, but malleable and adaptable to different musical backdrops. They’ve been consistently forward thinking and truly “progressive” with each album, and Soyuz is no different.
Like other Gazpacho albums, Soyuz is multilayered, and the conceptual depth reveals itself with repeated listens. The concept, as explained in our interview with Thomas Anderson, is the fleeting and ephemeral nature of time- the idea that”we are constantly fading into something else and nothing is static”. The narrative style of Soyuz is similar to their release March of Ghosts, in that each song is an individual snapshot of a different place in time. They manage on this album to play several different styles and paint very different snapshots, while still maintaining the Gazpach-ian atmosphere that they have so effectively crafted over time. As a comparison to previous works, they’ve traded the more experimental and long form explorations (like the ones found on Tick Tock, Demon, and Night) and odd instrumentation (like the ancient instruments of Molok) for shorter, more palatable and straightforward songs (with the exception of “Soyuz Out”, which clocks in around 13 minutes). There are several songs on the album that would function well as singles, though I feel like I’ve gained greater insight into the overarching theme of the album by listening from start to finish.
Opener “Soyuz One” is a thoughtful meditation, based around the fated flight of the Soyuz shuttle (which can be read about here). The music sounds forlorn, melancholy and contemplative, which fits with the concept of the album- the fleeting nature of time, and the preciousness of each beautiful and tragic moment of our lives.
“Hypomania” took me by surprise, with a jarringly dissonant verse transitioning into one of their more catchy choruses. “Sky Burial” is one of the highlights of the album for me. Based on Tibetan Buddhist funeral practices, this song is gorgeous and evocative, with an urgent piano line and strained strings played as a bed to the stirring chants of monks.
Penultimate track “Soyuz Out” is also one of my favorite tracks on this album. As one of the longer songs on an album of shorter songs, it might receive burden of needing an “epic” quality to avoid the drag that can happen with longer songs, and it delivers. Gazpacho so effectively paints a musical portrait of doomed cosmonaut Captain Komarov, peering out the window of his capsule at the vast expanse of space and attempting feebly to come to terms with what he was taking in.
While I admit to have fallen in love instantly with Gazpacho’s Demon and March of Ghosts, this latest album has taken me a little longer to fully understand. It’s taken several careful, distraction-free listens with headphones for me to get to a place where I feel like I understand what this album is trying to achieve. Soyuz is a stunning achievement, both in terms of music and scope, and as is the case with any great album, its thematic depth will reveal itself more and more, with every subsequent listen.
Gazpacho’s latest album, Soyuz, was released on May 18, 2018 through Kscope. Buy the album here.