Four albums on Garcia Peoples still sound like they’re tapping into the main nerve driving guitar rock in an era of subdivision and split-hair genres. While Nightcap at Wit’s End lands more refined and textural than their first couple of LPs, it retains the essential spirit that imbued their catalog with life in the first place. With Pat Gubler firmly entrenched in the band and not just a touring player, the Garcias bound off the experience of creating the massive “One Step Behind” to embark on an album that’s more than a gift to the jam — an all encompassing journey between the edges of the platter. Acoustic touches find greater import, letting the band slip past the phalanx of three-pronged guitar whirl laid down by Arakaki/Malach/Spaldo. Flutes bring the mists, organs swell with sinister purpose. The album is decidedly darker and more complex than their shaggy choogle of yore, seeing the band embrace an earnest vision of prog as it might find footing in 2020. Though they’d likely skirt the term, there’s some bones of the Düül and a touch of the Crimson finding its way into the complexity here. As the album wears on, though, some surprising new names enter the fray as well — bearing claw marks of Agitation Free, Roy Harper, and even solo David Crosby.
The first half of the LP sets out to absorb a wider array of cosmic rays, flung wide through their and hurtling out beyond mere stage-born grooves. From the full bore guitar growl that opens “Gliding Through” to the folk touches that seep through the sifter on “Painting A Vision That Carries,” this is Garcia Peoples at their most adventurous. The latter track sees the band marry a touch of Fairport / Trees fingerpick and freakout to their already stuffed basket of influences and it feels good to let in a little softness. Yet if the first side embraces a spin through various progressive heartthrobs of the ‘70s, the second half clinches it.
Flip the record and we find them constructing a suite of songs that lets vision win out over the instinct to set a song to riff. Here they swab the strains of several of the aforementioned ‘70s forbears to create a huge, mercurial set that bleeds one song into the next. The last album took us all on an epic ride, but here they’re building something even more solid. If “One Step Beyond” embraces their drive, then “Our Life Could Be Your Van” has to be something of a core mantra. Which begs the point — I truly regret that our current circumstances mean that its going to be a while before I get to witness these songs taking flight on the stage, but for now this is a hell of a lot to pick through and parse at home.
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