I’d checked Gnod out previously, on the basis that they’re signed to the fantastically eclectic (and consistently top-quality) record label Rocket Recordings. What awaited me on their Bandcamp page was a roiling, bounteous ocean of amassed influence. As an reference point for this indescribable amalgamation of noise rock, punk and dark electronica I suppose you’d say they’re like Swans. And even then I’m being reductive; they’re like, well, nothing really. Their stuff is tailored to distort, warp, disorientate your earlobes ‘til you’ve got a headache that sounds like an FM radio between stations.
So fuck only knows what lobe-lashing affront I was expecting from them live. For one, the venue was way weird, especially for a band of their nature. Green Door Store struggled to accommodate the multitude of pedals, equipment and general techno paraphernalia that accompanied them.
I was packed into the oven like dancefloor room of the venue, along with a bunch of grisly middle-age men, and a good smattering of freaky looking women. Barely a sigh could be heard as the room scrutinised Gnod setting up their gear. It was almost like that was part of their performance. Some top-knot dude, probably from The Level (B-town shout-out, you know) fiddled around with some whack off great board of wires and knobs while not one but two drummers assembled their kits opposite each other, as though preparing for a duel. There was so much stuff that the singer, a hefty looking punk with a hacked up haircut, was left with no choice but to set up in front of the stage. Almost like he was the conductor, or even the band’s general.
General certainly is appropriate ‘cos when Gnod’s bass player nonchalantly slung her instrument over her shoulder and initiated a stasis inducing thrum it became apparent that that’s how they work; they’re divided into battalions you could say. The percussion fought for the leading line at the rear, bass-girl took the task of ensuring everyone was marching in sync, while the frontman injected the trance with ragged eruptions of punk guitar and even raggier vocals.
It all worked to great effect though; despite the appearance that each band member was playing a different song, they all locked in with each other, constructing complex landscapes of sound.
It was all very jammy and hypnotic so I’m not really sure where each song ended and begun, however the one part that really stuck in my head was a chilling and cerebral number that I assume was titled People. The frontman set this off by exclaiming “PEOPLE, PEEEEEOPLE…” into the awestruck room. It was kinda like observing a midnight drunkard addressing a city centre, such was the impassioned nature of his shouts. The incongruous yelling converged with a driving beat and soon the apparently tuneless vocals began to make sense. The really interesting part though was when the music reduced itself to only the bass and the drums and the singer handed round the mic to various members of the crowd in order for them to interpret “PEOPLE” in whatever way they desired. It was almost more of an art piece than a song, but it still worked as a piece of music; the movement was never absent from the crowd; heads nodded and legs bent slavishly to the beat.
And what a beat it was; heavily fuzzed guitar was a prominent feature, but it was used in such a way that toward the climax of the song (which I assume was close to ten minutes long) it began to take on a sort of nursery rhyme feel to the ears, which was very disorientating. I didn’t know whether to sway or to leap around.
I guess this feeling sorta sums up the whole evening really; Gnod are an interesting prospect live, though I believe their main intention in their music is to make you think rather than dance. I mean it is groovy, but in order to fully appreciate how the individual elements of their sound combine you have to pay attention. They’re an experiment, a piece of art, a band pushing sonic divisions while having fun at the same time.
By Adam Morrison
Image: Knod at Tramlines Festival 2015, Wikipedia