Album Review: Histo — ‘JGDC’

A near-fatal lung infection gave multi-instrumentalist Donald Curtis a sense of urgency to follow his passions for music and form Histo, according to the band’s bio. The prefix “histo” medically refers to body tissue, but it also can mean “structure” or “set upright” (as in a histogram bar chart) — either of which could have been on Curtis’s mind following his medical crisis.

JGDC is Histo’s third full-length release since the band’s self-titled debut in 2019.
The album is a more collaborative work than Histo’s previously release, Asleep in the Firehole, in 2020.

From the Histo press kit: “Don reached out to previous band member Joe Galloro, who played bass on the first eponymous album, and asked if he’d ‘consult’ on the next phase of the band. In the end, Joe became an essential part of the new album, writing a lot of the musical progressions and melodies, playing bass, synths and guitar and even mixing the album.”

Galloro lives in Cedar Rapids; among his other gigs, he plays bass and collaborates with LV’s own Jordan Sellergren.

The resulting album is a melody-forward pop trip through layers of delicious guitar. A convenient (if not pinpoint-accurate) description of the music places it somewhere between laidback chillwave and shoegaze. It fits well next to my current diet of bands like Tame Impala and Toro y Moi. Curtis’s reaching vocals recall Dean Wareham of Luna and Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. Vocal harmonies add a depth and substance that buoys them up over the layers of instruments below.

It’s clear that Curtis has a decent collection of guitar effects and he’s not afraid to use them. Every time I listen to “Cosmic Trends,” I note a chiming vibrato pedal evoking Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins. Galloro’s bass walks give the listener another melodic path to follow through the song. Curtis delivers an existential chorus. “Celebrate / Feel alright / In my death / Live your life.”
The instrumental guitar workout appropriately named “Fuzzy Feelings” works as a prelude to my favorite track on the album, “Regression Never Ends.” (By the way: a Gish-era Billy Corgan with hair wants his Big Muff pedal back.)

“Regression …” has a stripped-down-to-drums-and-bass backing to the verses that lends a sober and ominous tone to the depressing vignettes. “Onward and outward with the trash / aggressive glances with the bears / How can I forgive myself if I don’t at least put up a fight” paints a stark picture of how nature quickly moves to adapt to the presence of humans, even if the humans have seemingly stopped their own march.

The chorus blooms gloriously, like a noxious cloud birthed from a trainwreck. “Regression never ends / Engines spin up but we destroy ourselves again.” A depressing message, but a clarion call for us to pay attention.

Curtis’s near death experience continues to propel his desire to share his perspectives in music and his lyrics. In that way, I suppose the band name is more accurately defined as “setting upright” — asking all of us, perhaps, to set things upright.

This article was originally published in Little Village’s April 2023 issues.