Uzu Oto: dreamy alt-pop soundscapes from glitch electronics and live improvisation

Gurun Gurun, Uzu Oto, Peru, BUH Records, BR157 vinyl LP (2022)

A Czech quartet, Gurun Gurun play alt-pop deconstructed through glitch electronics, improvisation and unusual song structures. Even their most recent album “Uzu Oto” is a bit unusual: the songs are all live but are taken from concerts recorded at different places and times in Gurun Gurun’s history, including periods before their last album “Kon B” released back in 2015. On these tracks too Gurun Gurun are joined by singer Cuushe and sound artist Asuna, both of them hailing from Japan.

GG’s Bandcamp page claims that attending the group’s concerts is rather like joining an expedition of monkeys exploring the ruins of a spacecraft wrecked long ago – though we don’t know if the monkeys discover any suspicious looking eggs! The music is rather more interesting than that description: sure, there seems to be plenty of rummaging around and tinkering with found sounds, sampling, various glitch and noise effects, and the odd shimmering presence – but in one track, “Toumeiningen” (featuring Cuushe), lasting nearly 19 minutes, there is a sense of wonder and awe at the scope of the adventure and at the treasures that may be found. We enter a lush world of bubbly sounds and rustling thicket, warbling noises and strange rhythmic reverberations, all the while being guided by Cuushe’s soft breathy musings.

The tracks before and after “Toumeiningen” appear very much diminished by this long spacey psychedelic piece: indeed, the three tracks coming after “Toumeiningen” seem much like footnotes detailing parts of that track in a bit more detail but not very much so. They are certainly busy tracks, “Otamatone” especially so with its wondering tones against a background of rushing drone hush and pops and bubbles; but perhaps because they lack the depth that Cuushe’s singing brought to the long track and are also much shorter, they appear flatter and less focused.

Overall the album is a pleasant listening experience with some attractive soundscapes in parts but it’s not nearly as engrossing and immersive as it could be.