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Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy Brian Coney , May 17th, 2021 08:26

Salford's premier mind-melters have been mining their back catalogue for forgotten nuggets, but this is anything but a simple cash-in, finds Brian Coney

Issued from the wrong mouth, “diving into the archives” is a term fit to strike fear into the most hardened heart. Take Gene Simmons, whose comically overblown box set, The Vault, was recently angled not so much as a retrospective cash-in as an “experience”. The experience in question? For $50,000, the cow-tongued eejit in question would hand-deliver ten CDs, a Gene Simmons action figure, a book and a medallion to your door. Tragic, really.

Of course, not all chancers are created equal, yet the point remains: archival releases are occasionally misplaced hustle masquerading as revelation. On Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy, Salford cult heroes Gnod couldn’t be less concerned with such half-assed subterfuge. A compilation of obscure and unreleased material from the band’s early years, pressed to vinyl for the first time, it’s a chronicle of dank, cosmic transubstantiation from one of the most outright believable bands around.

Calling a band “restless” can imply a certain aimlessness. In the case of Gnod, whose synapse-searing noise has consistently declined to predict the future, it’s been a deeply intuitive urge to eke out exultation from repetition. Much like Bardo Pond or Acid Mothers Temple at their most peaky, highlights from the band’s catalogue (take ‘Tony’s First Communion'’ or ‘Drop Out’ with White Hills) hauls Pete Kember’s edict of “three chords good, two chords better, one chord best” to the outer confines of autosuggestion. Across eight tripped-out tracks, totalling eighty minutes, Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy cracks light upon just how far they’ve gone.

Originally only available via social media graveyard Myspace, ‘They Live’ and ‘Inner Z’ trace how Gnod’s heavily-saturated textures and fealty to cyclical, Faustian rhythms elevated their Stooges-worshipping cosmosis early on. Combined, they hit like reverb-doused paeans to the band dropping far beyond the bounds of their long-time space at Islington Mill in Salford. Another highlight here, the tar-thick miasma of ‘5th Sun (Chaudelande Version)’ takes that impulse to a natural, doomed-out vertex. Filtering the exploratory fume of psych-dub whiz Sun Araw and Sunburned Hand Of The Man, the band notes it as being one of many early “improvisatory voyages that they couldn’t recall after the event.”

They may be spheres apart but it’s curious to weigh up dire, uncle-who-microdoses-now “jam bands” such as Phish with the legitimacy of those whose jamming means long shifts and likely thought transference in the feverish pursuit of ecstasy. As Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy shows, the latter quest has hinged on two core tenets for Gnod over the years: doing it and doing it a lot. “Most weekends from Friday to Sunday we were in the rehearsal room together,” the band recently recalled. “[We were] experimenting with equipment, setting up mad pedal chains, plugging things into other things and just plain old jamming.” As peaks here, like the hysterical, sax-mangled ‘Deadbeatdisco!!! Part 1 & 2’, fully attest, with the right heads and intent at hand, plain old jamming can go an exceptionally long way.