, June 10th, 2011 11:11
Northern England isn't the most obvious place for a renaissance in mind-flaying psychedelic noise. Traditionally, it was the post-war Germans who were culturally atomised enough to resort to pure hallucinogenic mantra as their musical refuge; the likes of Ash Ra Tempel taking this visionary genre to its two-side, two-song zenith. Recently, it's been the freakier bands of the US underground who've been the heads of the hydra, the likes of Sunburned Hand of the Man, Wooden Shjips and No-Neck Blues Band setting guitars for stun and sending their audience's senses to oblivion. Yet here in drizzly old England, we've lately been lucky enough to have a word-class psych scene unravel in frazzled glory on our doorstep.
Gnod, a collective from Manchester with an ever-rotating list of members, are one of the figurehead bands in this loose constellation of stoner weirdoes. Along with the improvisational shredding drones of Flower-Corsano Duo, as well as Newcastle's ultra-doomers Bong, they're an integral cog in a new English progressive music machine. The list of artists they've shared split EPs with gives you an idea of what blackened cosmic depths they're coming from - along with the sitar-toting, Lovecraftian Bong they've struggled for vinyl inches with Not Not Fun shamen Robedoor and New York's deep-space travellers White Hills.
Released by Rocket Recordings, INGNODWETRUST is, unsurprisingly, a heavy, oppressive album, designed to be hypnotic, transcendental and, at times, disturbing. Yet while Julian Cope's slavering endorsements and the association with Bong's sloth-crawl riffs might suggest that this is going to be a drifting voyage of doom-drone in line with the vogue of the last few years, the sounds here are refreshingly removed from the templates of their contemporaries. In line with the aforementioned Ash Ra Tempel, there's a prescription of motorik repetition and plenty of lava-lamp guitar effects at work, but, while Gnod work on the same basis as those German pioneers, the overall result here is very different.
The record features one lengthy psych-hymn on each of its sides, a double dose trip from a band that, unsatisfied with simply pulverising brains, seems intent on making the listener lose control of all their body. 'Tony's First Communion', the wonderfully titled first side, is arresting with its Faustian kick/snare/kick beat. Strangely, though, it's those damaged Texans, the Butthole Surfers, who seem the most persuasive touchstone here. The burnt-out ambiance conjured by buried choral samples, frittering dub effects and the odd attack of trebly guitar carries the same dread as the Surfers' gibbering '22 Going On 23'. Indeed, when vocalisation occurs, it's comparable to the 'Gibbytronix' peppering tracks like 'Sweat Loaf' on Locust Abortion Technician. There's a punk aesthetic throughout, from the cut and paste Pope-degrading cover art to the This Heat style tape loops in the mix.
The stomping repetition present on that first side offers an initiation into the ultra-dub rhythms present on the second. As the first track dissolves, skronking sax emerging through the miasma at the last minute which summons the interstellar jazz fugues of Sun Ra, 'Vatican' takes the intensity up several notches. Its fierce beat is at once ritualistic and reminiscent of clanking machinery. This assembly line rhythm, complemented with shaking tambourines and brain-cleaving chainsaw pedal effects, leaves Gnod becoming less of a psych band and more of a dance band, albeit one that'll leave you crippled. The tortured screams that drift out of the punishing, claustrophobic industrial immensity slip into a vortex of tolling dub pulsations and Mellotron that's thankfully more Joy Division's 'Decades' than Rick Wakeman.
The band does sound more distinguishable here than on their debut, which was submerged in dodgy production and low-end bass, but the emphasis on shattering industrial rhythm means they're heavier than ever. Rather than settling with tried and tested hippy experimentation, Gnod seem headed in an uncharted direction, creating crushing urban noise that reflects the grimmer side of the metropolis that they call home. Eschewing the usual fantastical lyrical and musical indulgence of their peers, they've invoked the same suffocating municipal atmospheres of the Hyperdub stable to do their bidding. With its oppressive array of krautrock rhythmic patterns, dub effects, electronic manipulations and bleak post-punk vibe, INGNODWETRUST is a concrete slab of quivering, disgusted urban psychedelic music, as ominous as it is compelling.