Mexican progressive rock quartet make an impressive debut release – managing to show their musical influences whilst uniquely combining them in a fresh and approachable way.
It really is one of the great joys of life when you suddenly discover a quality band for the first time, embark on discovering their back catalogue and subsequently travel forward with them with subsequent releases. It is even more exciting when you are fortunate enough to pick up on a band from the start of that musical journey, especially when you imagine hardly anyone else knows about them.
That is the situation I find myself in with Electro Compulsive Therapy, after being invited to listen to them a few weeks ago. Purely from the name I imagined them as some experimental electronic project, or maybe even an extreme progressive metal band. The old idiom ‘never judge a book by its cover’ was confirmed, once again, as I let the music wash over me.
Formed in 2016, Electro Compulsive Therapy are a progressive rock band from Monterrey, Mexico, comprising of four experienced musicians: Guillermo Garcia Herreros (lead vocals and keyboards), Andres Jasso (guitar), Rodolfo Gonzales (bass guitar) and Javier Villareal (drums and percussion). Between them they create melodic, atmospheric prog rock, with contemplative and melancholic vocals, flowing, dirge-like and hypnotic passages along with soaring instrumental guitar and keyboard excursions layered over a strong and solid rhythm foundation.
Whilst they do wear their musical influences on their sleeves across most tracks, they have mixed them into a fresh and appealing concoction, which is both unique and approachable. I hear Riverside, Porcupine Tree, Airbag, Anathema and Pink Floyd overtones, but then there are hints of latter-day Bowie and Marillion, Talk Talk, Edge-like U2 riffs, Joy Division bass runs and maybe the atmospheric, understated sparseness of Nick Cave in the emotive vocals. Chief songwriter Guillermo is not afraid to soak up his influences and yet produce a progressive rock soundscape to appeal to followers of the bands mentioned above. He will even throw in a Mellotron passage if it complements the atmosphere generated.
This debut release kicks off the Glow. It is not only a strong opening track but sums up the signature style you can expect to follow. From an atmospheric piano-led introduction, clean, plaintive vocals are joined by a powerful guitar passage over a solid bass and drum support. A nice change of tempo half-way through sets the scene and as the lyrics “…remember on your way up the lights begin to fade, on your way down the cracks begin to show” are followed by the inevitable build-up to a rich conclusion of swirling keyboards and climbing Floydian guitar motifs.
The 2-part epic-like Colors Fade Away starts serenely as Guillermo almost whispers the memorable chorus “All the colors slowly fade away. All the memories burn like cigarettes” – and as the volume rises, we get some lovely and melodic guitar lines before the mood darkens. There’s Porcupine Tree Anesthetize-style ensemble work with Rodolfo and Javier building an impressive rhythm, closing with a reprise of the lyrics and a well-pitched guitar solo from Andres. For a song almost 10-minutes long, I would have liked it to have extended and developed even further – and a live setting could be a perfect way for this track to reach even greater heights. Excellent stuff!
Blackstar has a haunting, unsettling acoustic piano theme with atmospheric, distorted vocals before the music takes off fully. Siren-like keyboards are followed by dark bass-led instrumentation before a stunning guitar solo brings things to a climax. There is a slow return to the hypnotic initial theme but the guitar maintains its presence as the keyboards provide an understated layering through to the conclusion.
Gemini starts with a lethargic, melancholic, Pineapple Thief feel, quiet piano building up to atmospheric guitar runs from Andres. Guillermo’s vocals have depth and confidence and complement the musical feel very well. In Through the Light maintains the wistful atmosphere, and maybe here the Steven Wilson-influence is strongest. The guitar continues to be used to lift the music above the deliberate weariness the instrumentation and lyrics create very successfully.
Walking Ghosts is more uplifting and builds up rather nicely from delicate, melodic tones to a U2-style anthemic conclusion. Less prog and maybe an indie-pop feel, but it provides a refreshing contrast to the last three tracks. Stand Wait and Transcend maintains the slow to mid-tempo beat, but it is lifted to more proggy heights by some lovely atmospheric, Mellotron passages (always a winner with me!).
The final track, Supernova, provides an uplifting, though wistful, Airbag/Riverside-style conclusion with all the elements that have come before taking us to a satisfying and melodic finish. “When enough is enough, we step out of the darkness into the light”.
For a debut release from an independent prog band from Mexico, I think this is a fine, professional effort. The standard of musicianship is very high indeed and the song writing is strong with a maturity not seen by many such new bands. Putting my ultra-critical hat on, I could suggest many songs follow the ‘quiet piano start, building up to the powerful, guitar-led climax’ template. Maybe a bit more variety of pace and power could also be added – but in all honesty, I really am nit-picking to the extreme. This is a lovely album.
The debut release from Electro Compulsive Therapy is quality fayre and highly recommended! There is more than enough for a prog listener to get a lot of pleasure from in a professional and atmospheric album. Guillermo is a talented leader, supported by excellent and experienced musicians. These guys need supporting and I will certainly be looking forward to seeing them progress and build upon this in the years to come.
At the time of writing, the album is only available as a download from Distrokid or via Spotify or YouTube. However, hopefully once the website is up and running, CDs, merchandise and even vinyl will follow – and this independent band will start to get the following beyond their home country that their efforts deserve. Any well-established record companies might want to check them out and get on the lift at the ground floor. This band could go places with the right backing!
01. Glow (6:03)
02. Colors Fade Away (9:54)
03. Blackstar (8:28)
04. Gemini (5:05)
05. In Through The Light (7:42)
06. Walking Ghosts (4:44)
07. Stand Wait And Transcend (6:42)
08. Supernova (5:52)
Total Time – 55:57
Guillermo Garcia Herreros – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Andres Jasso – Guitar
Rodolfo Gonzales – Bass Guitar
Javier Villareal – Drums, Percussion
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Mexico
Date of Release: 28th April 2021