The Carps' - Gaia

9 songs
63:41 minutes
***** ****
(self released)


Pol Belardi founded The Carps’ in 2004, back when he must have been still very, very young. A first demo came soon after, showing a lot of promise but still suffering from the amateurishness of youth. Then he was joined on guitar by his brother Chris, who is also the keyboarder for Chief Marts’ (anyone notices the apostrophe similarity?), who have been my favourite band from Luxembourg for a long time, despite them hardly being active anymore. The Carps’ line-up is completed by drummer Aloyse Weyler who also plays for the Northern Luxembourgish punk rockers Sad But True.

In the years since the band’s foundation, Pol Belardi has become something like a jazz wunderkind, right now playing with his band Mystory mostly in the Netherlands. But that doesn’t mean that there is no more time for his band. I was somewhat surprised to finally learn that the Carps’ have finally released their debut album Gaia, and was of course more than eager to listen to it. And I haven’t been disappointed. The CD starts with the instrumental Illusionary Mood, creating from the onset an atmosphere somewhere between psychedelic and post rock. This may be unusual, but the following Youtopia is the kind of song I would have expected from the trio. The band lists among its influences Norway, but we all know that by that they mean Motorpsycho, for whom they opened a show very recently. Here we get crunchy alternative guitars and somewhat subdued vocals that despite having been mixed rather into the background still have a certain kind of charm. Up next is the longest track of the album, the eleven minute Maskerade, where the musicians finally shed off all inhibitions and combine scripted songwriting with relentless jamming. That may be a little over the top sometimes, but frankly I prefer this bold approach to that of bands that always stay within the four minute limit just to hope for some quick radio airplay.

Jonathan Tilkrop is a weird semi-acoustic instrumental piece with detuned trumpet, and definitely something else. But then we go back to normalcy with SSS (Seldom Sonic Skies), a catchy three-and-a-half minute rocker that is screaming Norway from the top of the mountains, and due to its short length possibly the best candidate at a radio hit. The last four tracks finally don’t care about conventions and are all between six and ten minutes long. Machine starts quite typically but finds a lot of room for improvisation later on, Celestial Spiral is a majestic alternative rocker with a nice psychedelic touch and an unexpected melodica driven break towards the end. More weirdness follows with the ten minute long Hidden Path, an instrumental, just like the concluding Time Walk, which again nods to the post rock community.

The Carps’ are basically a Nineties influenced alternative rock with some Seventies spicing, and even though the main instruments are guitar, bass and drums, there are also a lot of keyboards, even a vintage Taurus, and of course some stellar vibraphone playing. I was surprised by the high number of instrumental tracks, but maybe that makes sense, considering how much the guys like to jam together. The production is nice and basic, possibly just right for this kind of music. There’s a couple of more accessible tracks, while the bigger part just shows off a trio of extremely talented musicians that are not afraid to play rock music the way it was intended to be: free of constraints and limitations. The generous running time of a little over an hour is also very welcome, and I strongly suggest everyone to check out this new star in the Luxembourgish music heaven as soon as humanly possible.

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