Perth’s Gombo are the very definition of the music biz fairy tale, ‘overnight sensation’. Having been in existence for 10 years now, and on hiatus for the last three, they’re back with their debut album, Mu Cephei, and should be set to become a household name. People all over the world are going to be hearing their music for the first time and getting into this ‘new’ band. No one will ever know what it took to make the album, even, maybe, the band themselves.
This album may just singlehandedly make prog rock relevant again in the 2020s, in a way few bands are capable of.
When asked about the journey, Marco Chilli (bass/vocals) told Around The Sound, “We finished recording our album then took a couple of years off. After parting ways with our drummer, Ryan (Dillon, guitar/vocals) and I started jamming again, then found Dan (Bell, drums) who has fitted in perfectly. The three of us have been busy getting a set together for gigs, finalising artwork and preparing all digital services for the album release.”
Understated to say the least. Gombo are a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Hopefully that will just make the people who love their music hungry to comb the Internet to find out more about them.
We tried to get more out of Chilli, strapping him to a chair in the Gombo lab and using a mind probe to try to get inside the head of this enigmatic musician/magician.
Asked about the new album and its influences, Chilli said, “Writing songs that challenge us has always been the way in this band. It takes some time to finally say ‘Yes, this tune is finished’ and be happy to whack some PJs on it, give it a nice cup of hot Milo and tuck it into bed. Musically, we sit on the alternative/progressive/rock side of things and we love big riffs and odd times. Influences…you’ll hear them throughout the album.”
He wasn’t giving too much away, maybe just enough to spark sufficient curiosity in potential first-time listeners to get them to give Gombo’s music a go.
Chilli also told us how excited Gombo are to be back playing live again and let us know that 2020 will see the band gigging and writing, saying, “The more, the merrier.”
But, when we tried to delve deeper into the themes of the songs, Chilli shut down the conversation with a terse, “No comment.” Maybe it was our suggestion that the band’s lyrical intensity could stem from the members’ lack of human contact? Maybe he was just keen to get some more new songs tucked up in bed?
Who knows? But it never hurts to leave people hanging.
So, in the absence of intel from the band themselves, here’s Around The Sound’s take on Gombo’s long-awaited debut.
New album, Mu Cephei, is a genre-defining slab of Nu Prog that doesn’t mind wearing its heart on its sleeve. This album may just singlehandedly make prog rock relevant again in the 2020s, in a way few bands are capable of.
In the modern age, listening to music has become something you do while you’re doing something else. Streaming services even package up playlists to accompany your moods or daily activities, things like ‘Chill Out’ or ‘Workout’. Apparently, people don’t have time to listen to music anymore.
The 10 tracks on Mu Cephei clock in at almost 60 minutes and the intricacy and genius of these songs demands every single one of those minutes of your listening time. Yep, Gombo are swimming against a pretty strong tide with this album, but what they’ve pulled off here is more than just a soundtrack to accompany your life, this music is life!
The songs on Mu Cephei traverse and transcend genres. We’ve called what Gombo do on this album ‘Nu Prog’ because prog is the closest nod to the band’s influences, but the sound also is fresh and futuristic. While you can hear everything in the songs from early Genesis (the good stuff before the Phil Collins out front years) to King Crimson to Sepultura, even Something For Kate, and a lot of other stops along the way, Gombo’s music on Mu Cephei is entirely their own.
This is music made in a mad-musician’s science lab. Gombo call it, “thinky” and they’re right in this assessment. It’s also filled with bile and pent-up frustration as well as moments of aching tenderness. Mu Cephei is a musician-as-lab-rat record, filled with experimentation and detours into the unexpected. The songs are all plain sailing one moment and rushing over the edge of a cliff the next; soaring harmonies then a whack of searing metal vocals. Musical motifs that shouldn’t work together sit side by side and sound like they’ve always held hands.
Yes, the music is experimental and ground breaking, but it’s also sure footed. The songs on Mu Cephei are the result of a 10-year collective research program that must have included repeated trials of song writing, tests and double-blind studies that produced an album that is as close to perfection as you’d ever want to get. Get too close and the music would be boring, and boring Mu Cephei is not.
Mu Cephei is a triumph and well worth sitting out your next workout or chill out session so you can give it a listen from start to finish.
Gombo launch Mu Cephei at The Boston on Friday 8 November and the Prince Of Wales in Bunbury on 9 November. Click here for more information.