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Gnod – Infinity Machines

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Gnod - Infinity MachinesSprawling its way across three sides of vinyl and two CDs, Infinity Machines is Gnod at their most epic. There’s a lot of it and can feel initially daunting to step into it as you realise the weight of expectation, and the fact that your brain has to disseminate so much music, creep up on you. So I’m going try my best at reviewing such a large body of work that has all the mystical trappings of being almost progressive, but steps away into a realm of its own.

Album opener “Control Systems” shifts between the initial barrage of its Throbbing Gristle-sounding industrial leanings that make it slightly verge on the latter’s “Discipline” territory. After this, the track moves into an almost wistful ambient-sounding section that bought to mind Japan’s “The Tennant” and “Experience of Swimming”. The fact that these two sounds, principally at odds with each other, manage to segue into a whole makes this construction by Gnod even more amazing. To hit from pure metallic deep bass rhythm to a sound akin to The Penguin Café Orchestra gives you the sense that this album is not going to give you an easy or a lazy sonic ride. Elements of Coltrane-style jazz creep in as the track discovers itself and you. It’s a cross-pollination that shouldn’t work, but does. This is not psychedelic music, but something more esoteric like Psychic TV’s Dreams Less Sweet and leaves you with the same unnerving feeling.

Atmospheres of darkness and doped-out philosophy become the theme of “Inevitable Collateral”. This combination of tripped-out occultism used as spoken word over the music and the saxophone playing over ambient droning with harsh synth punches bought to mind some of Coil’s early work such as Horse Rotorvator. This is Medmenham out-there Hell Fire atmospherics created in an alchemical pool of blood, spit and gold. Its rhythmic elements begin to kick in half way through, but we are still getting that feel of chaos magic, Steven Sennitt-style early Eighties occultism seeping out of its grooves into your speakers. “Desire”’s guitar and bass thump is the kind of sound used in Temple ov Psychick Youth rituals in 1983, its drum pattern stutters awkwardly before we hit what is the most traditional rhythmic piece of the album so far.

“Importance of Downtime” starts so quietly it hardly registers at first. Its drifting sonic feeling is one of ritual music put through the envelope of a satanic Eno. In fact, there is a hint of The Virgin Prunes‘ “Din Glorious” from their A New Form of Beauty album. Chattering voices peak up occasionally, but the tone here is more subdued than on earlier tracks. Its rhythm pattern is slight, giving a midnight meditation at the Process Church kind of vibe to it. The trance effect from the piece seems to take over your entire room and the feeling that candles should be lit as you contemplate the music takes over the mood of the track.

“White Privileged Wank” has the kind of title that wouldn’t be out of place on TG’s Second Annual Report. The slow droning bass synth intro slowly builds from imperceptible to full on sturm und drang, industrial soundscapes that sound like electrified insects crawling. It’s a dirty crunching sound that mixes early Human League electronics with harsh guitar and Einstürzende Neubauten-style percussion. The track becomes a deafening roar as more elements are added into its brew.

Half way through, the track breaks down, only seemingly to re-emerge with more venom in its giant bass notes. This hits a point of almost becoming psychedelic as it trips so far out there that its never coming back until “Spinal Fluid” hits the calm esoteric button as it meanders like a stream through a series of gentle atmospherics underscoring a spoken-word vocal. Slowly the electronics begin to splutter into life and here, yet again, I am reminded of Coil’s output; however, this is more Musick To Play In the Dark territory. The message the lyrics expound do however get rather obfuscated by the electronic rhythms that carry the remainder of the track through.

“Breaking the Hex” is a big riff psych rocker with its wibbling synths, massive drum and bass line and the kind of punch that mixes Hawkwind with stoner rock. “Infinity Machines” itself starts with echoed voices of children playing over a deep throb bass. It gives an almost gentle English playground of yesteryear feel to to the title track before disquieting instrumentation slowly builds underneath it. Backward-echoed voices creep in and suddenly we feel like we are heading to the darker recesses of esoterica.

When the drums and sax finally hit in is when things begin to take on the atmosphere of a Seventies horror film soundtrack. But “Infinity Machines” is more than just these parts; it becomes a music that transcends boundaries. Is it jazz? Industrial? Psychedelic? Ambient? It is all these things, and for some reason they work together to make the track sit in a space of its own; like a conjuration of ancient gods the music seems out of its own time and place.

In the end, Infinity Machines is a difficult album to sum up in a few words. It’s an album to take you on a journey and it’s not always an easy record to come to terms with musically. But like all important works of art, you need time to appreciate its many facets and indulge the time to immerse yourself in it. It’s a brave album and its layers will probably become more apparent after repeated listens. Infinity Machines is quite simply Gnod at their best.

-Gary Parsons-

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