Hugo Race & True Spirit
Release Date: 04/28/2005 · Format: CD · Catalog-No: GR 635The idea of Ambuscado was born when bass player Bryan Colechin proposed (ironically?) that the band create an album for the christian rock scene, given that over the years the band and Hugo as a solo artist had covered many songs from the gospel tradition. However, the result is in no sense a predictable album of spirituals. Fragments from the global spiritual canon (fundamentalism of all sorts, including that of the new age!) are thrown into a matrix of electronics, blues and free-form experimentation to create a bewildering epic of transgression and dark humour. The overall effect resembles a trip into the viscera of a psychedelic sixth dimension.
“John the Revelator” and Daniel Johnson’s “Spirit World Rising” (already covered by Race in solo format on “Stations of the Cross” (1994) and “Long Time Ago” (2001)) are the tracks that most resemble songs in the conventional sense. The rest of the album seems hell-bent on breaking the rules on every level. Pieces such as “Yeah U”, “In the Valley of the Moon” (in which the band cannibalise their own history) and “Ducados” are more like bizarre episodes merging fragments of songs with atmospheric soundscapes. “Girl Called Sunset”, fuses pure electronic beats with primal guitar blues in a way more extreme than anything on the band’s “Goldstreet Sessions” (2003). “Essential Serbo-Croat” takes a loop of Iraqi oud and merges it with Bosnian war poetry and transcendental synthesiser. “The Judge” is a dizrhythmic swampscape, a track of subterranean guitar noise embedded with fragments of US military chatter sampled from shortwave broadcasts. Percussionist Chris Hughes contributes two instrumentals, Komota 1 & 2, that channel seductive siren-like voices voices from beyond the physical realm. Harp and trumpet player Michelangelo Russo sings the ecstatic “Surfing the Alpha” over an orchestration of moog, mellotron and slide guitar like some drugged Mullah. “Ostrava”, named after the decomposing Czech steel town, is a dreamlike excursion into white noise based on a fragment of conversation. “Religious Sound” uses loops from an interview with Race on Amsterdam radio over a bed of hypnotic guitars, the discussion revolving around the True Spirit’s links with mysticism and religion in a manner both comic and bizarre. The album’s key track is “Will the Circle be Unbroken”, where the flow of acoustic and electronic sound is harnessed to the gospel blues, and the lyrics embrace the apocalypse.
The effect of this album is disconcerting – the band seems to have discarded all respect for convention in order to excavate a new territory where any combination of sound is fair game. It’s very much a group effort, Ambuscado – the songs are for the first time co-written between Race and his colleagues, and all the members have space to incant their own visions. A tapestry of fragments collected by the band over the space of a decade, Ambuscado is approximately the 12th album from Hugo Race’s True Spirit and demonstrates the band’s ruthless commitment to discovering new sources of inspiration and sound.