Gel-Sol is one peculiar puppy. The puppy’s name is Andrew Reichel, and since 1998 he has composed, created and performed exceedingly idiosyncratic, wild music. On Horse Head Bookends this undertaking – exploring what Mr. Reichel has dubbed his own “paracosm” – continues in a way as joyous as it is confounding. The album basically consists of a thick layering of influences and genres, cunningly enticed and perhaps coerced to coexist as one product, if that word is really fitting to describe something like this.
Space rock, kraut, synth, dub and numerous other styles of music can be discerned by the catalog minded listener. To be more straight-forward, one could say that the lion’s share of the album consists of rich, analog synthesizer melodies, pads and arrangements. These are often, but not always, accompanied by funky drum beats of a type that makes the overall impression resemble progressive rock more than pure electronic music. There are occasional electric guitars, samples, loops and other goodies that also contribute to a somewhat rock’n roll feeling, even while the method of music creation is certainly more on the electronic-artist-crotcheting-music-together side of things rather than in long-haired-fellows-in-a-rehearsal-space territory.
There is a great deal of variation of sound on Horse Head Bookends, even if the production and “old-school” feel provides a thread of consistency throughout. “Earth Melt”, perhaps my favorite track, builds a spectacular atmosphere and sounds very much like the soundtrack of some terrible late 70’s action or exploitation flick. You know, the kind that has music inexplicably way better than the actual film, and which may appear in an episode of Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst. It is easy to imagine VHS quality video of some guy with long hair running through fake rain at night, blasting away at bad guys in the form of Nazi ninjas and/or various minorities. Other songs, like “The Magician’s Sojourn” and “Goldilock’s Zone” have a Sci-Fi/space rock orientation, while “Last Night In Sweden” and “Smoky Charbonneau” are more relaxed, funky and psychedelic tone. Almost all of this album could be soundtrack music for old films, but almost all of it is also an excellent listen in and of itself.
To sum up, Gel-Sol is a nice new acquaintance (not going to pretend I knew of this project before). The dense, analog synth layers, the funky rhythms and moods moving between subtle, almost spiritual, themes and a dirty trash cinema feel are the main factors that make this a great listen. To be noted is also an excellent approach to experimentalism, in which things may get lost in crazy town for a while (i.e. the end of the aforementioned “Smoky Charbonneau”), but never so much so that you get annoyed and want to skip a track. We’re now thirsting to hear even more from Andrew Reichel, and will check out his back catalog. Horse Head Bookends is released on vinyl and for digital download September the 19th, but is available for pre-order now from Verses Records’ homepage or Bandcamp.