Experimental art must prevent its experiments from becoming mere formulas. Gnod is a Mancunian psychedelia outfit which has spent over a decade shuttling between kosmische, ambient music, stoner rock, and related genres. Their back-catalogue is bold and varied: on 2008’s The Somnambulist’s Tale, the sounds of a haunted music box seem to swirl and modulate; on 2018’s Chapel Perilous, electro-acoustic drone structures alternate with kicking jams.
Gnod has retained its spirit of adventure by functioning as a shifting collective. But this collective does not rest on its laurels. Gnod has established its own bureau of Research and Development (GNOD R&D), whose opening statements were cassette-only releases on the band’s own Tesla Tapes. Volume 3 centres on Gnod co-founders Paddy Shine and Chris Haslam, with vinyl and digital releases by Sound of Cobra Records.
The album consists of four untitled tracks, each 16 to 20 minutes in length. All were recorded live during an Italian tour, with collaborators including the Italian noise rock duo OvO. These recordings are skilfully done, with as much clarity as studio takes. At heart, the music is dark, industrial ambience, somewhat sinister and often abrasive. The first two tracks start minimally, with synthesised tones and whirrs giving way to light percussion and whispered vocals. Both tracks gradually build in volume and energy. Rhythm emerges from murk, coalescing with shamanic chanting.
The third track reverses this structure: it begins in fuzzy distortion, accompanied by snippets of drums and strings; then it calms down into ten minutes of sparse droning and chattering. The final track is the longest and the finest. Here, a throbbing, alien synth gradually rises in frantic energy. It is joined by screechings of harsh noise and the sound of a deep, repetitive guitar. Meanwhile, the prehistoric percussion and plainsong continue undisturbed, as if the cacophony were part of some ritual practice.
Much of Gnod’s music is driven by this invocation of ritual, not least through chanting and drumming. Those of us with a secular worldview may still be moved by tribal rhythms, by the cadences of liturgical music, or by the dark menace of a Roman curse tablet. The members of Gnod embrace this power as they push their sound in new, evermore rewarding directions. (Samuel Rogers)