[Click play above to stream Henryspenncer’s Hypnosis Gumbo in full. Album is out April 12 through Robotic Empire and Bookmaker Records.]
It’s nearly impossible to imagine that Henryspenncer didn’t name their new album, Hypnosis Gumbo, after its own sound. Released through Robotic Empire and Bookmaker Records, the Parisian instrumental post-heavy-rockers’ fourth full-length enacts varying modes of trance-inducing sonics throughout, from molten chugging to tribal-style percussion to dreamy Western psychedelia, and a given recipe for gumbo being “whatever you got, over rice,” Hypnosis Gumbo makes a fair title for the deeply atmospheric and at times resoundingly weighted outing. Wherever Henryspenncer go in the six-track/42-minute span, they manage to keep a sense of space in the material and offer substance to go with all the otherworldly vibes and patient execution.
None of that is necessarily new from Henryspenncer, which was founded by guitarist/bassist Valentin Féron in 2008, but Hypnosis Gumbo does represent a significant shift in approach, as it’s Féron‘s first long-player with Henryspenncer not executed as a solo artist. In the studio, he worked with drummer/bassist/Rhodes specialist Julien Magot, and since then the lineup has grown even further, with the additions of guitarist Carl Boisson, bassist Charlie Batalla and Thomas Kuratli on electronics. Even with just Féron and Magot on the studio tracks, however, Hypnosis Gumbo is immediately a shift in vibe from Henryspenncer‘s past work, which has its explosively loud moments, but was much more Grails than Pelican and now finds that balance shifted significantly. Presented as two vinyl sides, each opening with its longest track, Hypnosis Gumbo trades the somewhat more intimate feel the project honed previously for a richer and more densely weighted sound that, in addition to its ambient roots, is not at all shy about crushing when to inclined.
The stated central theme of the album is fire, which is fitting enough with the cover art, certainly, and the tones throughout keep plenty warm as well. Opener “Quetzalcoatl” unfolds a rolling groove in Magot‘s drums beneath Féron‘s riffing, freaking out with effects as it makes its way toward a faster push topped by transposed layers of noise, breaking down just past the halfway point only to rebuild again, that noise becoming abrasively high pitched by the end of the song, which gives way to the minimalist, spacious opening of “Relic,” thudding drums growing gradually in intensity atop a bed of drone.
A swell of post-metallic riffing emerges for a moment, but recedes again, and when the guitar comes back, it’s to unleash a slogging chug of doom, that will carry the elephantine stomp to the song’s finish several minutes later, a slow-motion effects swirl growing in intensity near the finish to provide transition into the percussion-led “Vortex,” which closes out side A with a linear build that seems to take cues earlier on from Russian Circles‘ progressivism and in its later reaches from the rhythmic urgency of Neurosis. Neither is a bad cue to take, frankly, and the manner in which Henryspenncer play these influences off each other helps to create an identity not necessarily entirely beholden to either. They come out of with with something individual, in other words, and particularly in context with the breadth of the rest of the album’s first half, they maintain a genuinely experimental feel.
At just past 10 minutes, “Voodoo’s Rising” is the longest cut on Hypnosis Gumbo, and perhaps its most ambitious installment as well, with clanging percussion behind its early rumble, a chaos of Rhodes keys tossed in to enhance the swampy atmosphere, shakers, a growing intensity of drums and noise, and a thrilling final push that, in fine tradition, is torn apart over the last minute or so. Its kitchen-sink approach feels emblematic of the album’s title, and broadens the context in which the subsequent “Foxes” arrives, its relatively subdued open-air guitar more in line with some of what Henryspenncer offered on 2013’s Saturn or 2011’s To the Timeless Valley, even with Magot‘s drums gradually emerging to complement Féron‘s guitar. Somewhat more languid in its execution, it also happens to be particularly hypnotic as it moves with subtle efficiency toward a keyboard-laden apex that fades out before closer “New Days” commences its droney start, setting a bed for what sounds like looped guitar runs and tapped-out notes, Magot joining in to set an overarching groove to the turns as the build gets moving, keys fleshing out the space.
After three minutes into the total six, “New Days” comes to a halt, thickens its tones and rolls out a last nod at full-weight, ending the album with a build on the drums met by key/effects swirl and buried guitar leads that cuts itself short to fade quickly out. Maybe Henryspenncer had such a finish plotted out all along for Hypnosis Gumbo and maybe it just happened to be what worked best when Féron and Magot were putting the record together, but either way, it’s a final emphasis of the new era on which the band has embarked with these tracks. As Henryspenncer has continued to add to their lineup, and particularly as that lineup has started to play live, it seems likely there are more changes in store going forward from here, but with Hypnosis Gumbo as a kind of second debut, the band has given themselves plenty to build upon for the next time out.