Review: Meeting With Hans – “Genius Loci”

Multi-instrumentalist Tomas Svoboda is clearly out to toy with listeners’ expectations of recording fidelity.

The Czech musician’s third LP as Meeting With Hans – titled Genius Loci, available now on Bandcamp as a digital-only recording – is deceptively lo-fi, offering tracks that cut between occasionally gray recordings of Mogwai-tinged, post-rock anthems and unusually crisp, even glassy, refrains. What’s interesting about the record, though, is how its five too-short tracks manage to dart between both idioms without sounding scatterbrained. Quite the contrary, the record is quite cohesive, even suggesting inter-compositional themes, which is surprising given that Svoboda pieced the instrumentals’ guitar and drums together over the course of three-plus years.

Svoboda’s sound is natural, but most definitely studied. While there’s nothing here that hints at the grandiose beauty of Spiderland, Svoboda is clearly a descendant of David Pajo’s use of six-stringed texture, though not his sense of open spaces. And he definitely has dog-eared books on how to craft engaging, guitar-driven post-rock. But he’s no hack. On opener “Lamp of the Invisible Light,” he breaks free from fairly straight-forward 4/4 Codeine-isms to interweave his guitar with a carefully tracked inverse loop; elsewhere in the same song, he goes distorted, the double-kick-drums enter, and it’s, briefly, a sojourn into post-metal. Odd, but it works.

Svoboda, if you can’t tell by now, is quick to get bored with a locked groove, and, at times, gets borderline schizophrenic. Example? On “There Is No Such Thing As Ghosts!” his guitar, clearly the record’s frontman, dances alongside Watter-esque synths, then abandons the conceit all together to guitar crunch-ery and, later, to almost psychedelic digital delay patterns. (Two-thirds of the way through the thing, he stumbles upon a shockingly good breakdown of guitar and drums but leaves it behind before he has fully explored its potential.)

The outlines of songs like “On The Verge of Day” are even harder to trace. There, the guitar is initially so roughly recorded that you start to question Svoboda’s bedroom-engineering judgement. But, he quickly follows it with a loud descent and, then, pristinely recorded guitars whose notes elicit images of icicles.  There is something new here around every bridge.

The record closes with the defiant “Breathing The Stardust,” which casts off its early June of 44-inspired 1-2-3-4 march with distorted guitars and chopping measures that, if sped up, would flirt with post-hardcore’s gut-pummeling laments. At one point, the sludgy, loose-around-the-edges distortion remains, but so do Svoboda’s glassy guitars and synths that almost sound like angelic moans. Again, it’s Svoboda pushing the boundaries of just how far he can bend the conceit of the lo-fi multi-instrumentalist – and it makes for an interesting journey. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Aug. 8, 2019

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