Essence – 9th December 2016
The circumstances of this release are rooted in the kind of rock mythology that usually surrounds cult acts of the 60s and 70s: the kind of band known to only a few people, but spoken of with reverence and a messianic enthusiasm which, through time, finds the band achieving a legendary status which far exceeds their actual audience.
Unusually, Expo Seventy are a post-millennium band. Formed in 2003, this album captures a brief moment in their history from around 2010, when they featured a second drummer. Expo Seventy played only a handful of shows in Kansas City, and Chicago at the Neon Marshmalow festival in this four-piece iteration. Born out of a series of experimental jams laid down in the studio for an at ‘experience’ project in Kansas which would see the funding lost and the project dropped, this release accounts for the entirety of their recorded work. Recorded over the course of three weeks, the album contains two longform movements (with the CD version featuring a third).
The first section builds a steady desert rock vibe and a simmering groove emerges. Through a succession of meandering detours, breakdowns, breaks and diversions, the track holds down a thunderous rhythm, solid, and rides through a series of sustained, surging crescendos. The twenty-six minute second movement begins as a long, slow drone, an interminable hum throbbing on some six minutes in with no sign of abatement. It’s a real patience-tester, but gradually, one becomes drawn into the textures, and then, subtly, synth notes creep into the mix. A flicker of cymbals. Around the ten-minute mark, the slow build begins to step up, rolling toms building tension: it’s only a matter of time before the wall breaks. It’s all about time. And it’s all about the double-drummer lineup. They rumble like thunder, cymbals explode over the deep, augmented drone. The third movement picks up where the second leaves off, pitching a darkly atmospheric rumble. Tribal drumming thunders while analogue synths bubble through the battering beats.
For an album of its length, not a lot happens, but then, it doesn’t need to.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning the artwork and packaging. It’s truly outstanding: not only does it capture the vintage vibe beautifully, but the heavy stock makes this release feel like something special.