[Reviewed by Damiano Lanzi]
Expo Seventy is basically the solo project of prolific guitarist Justin Wright, this time flanked by Aaron Osborne on bass and synthesizers and Jim Button on drums. The power-trio lineup goes through three atmospheric improvisations. Despite their length (the shortest is about 10 minutes long, the longest almost 20 minutes), the improvisations never go off the rails, thanks to the leading attitude of Wright’s guitar playing, that indicates the path to follow for the other musicians all through the album. There’s always a sense of compactness and massiveness in the sound, both in the denser parts and in the most sparse ones, but in each of these two extremes the result is highly psychedelic, going straight from the ears to the mind of the listener.
The first track, that gives the album its title, apart from being the longest piece is also the most dynamic, the one that features more different atmospheres. It all starts with a drone upon which toms, cymbals, bass and guitar scales slowly add pieces to the puzzle, leading to a doom bass riffing and gradually to an ever more marked drum rhythm that cedes ground for the melodic lines of the guitar, processed with wah-wah and delays. Wright’s playing maybe isn’t the most technically cutting-edge and the effect setups are quite traditional, but he goes straight to the point without unnecessary frills, introducing the listener to that retro-futuristic fascination evoked by the band’s name and imagery. The second track, “Curiosities of Levitations”, brings us in a completely different and more “spacey” territory. The suite begins with an extended proto-ambient section, dominated by the sound of an analog space-organ, punctuated here and there by lead synth notes and noises. This tense, suspended atmosphere is maintained for about ten minutes of Stakhanovite effort, then some disturbed modular synths peer out from the noise and in the end emerge into a proper sequence. It’s impressive how the different pieces of this track flow one into another in an endless becoming. The third and final track, “Thunderbird Mound”, is the most energetic and rhythmic in the album. Here Wright plays in a mostly mid and low register, obtaining a distinctive fuzzy growl from his SG guitar. In the end the intensity is lowered and the drums’ pace becomes slower, while the delay repeats remain after the solo until the closure of the album.