When Russian outfit Gnoomes released their 2017 LP Tschak! it came after a turbulent period that saw Sasha Piankov temporarily imprisoned for smoking cannabis and also narrowly avoiding mandatory service in the army. After locking themselves in an old soviet radio station with analogue synths to make a record that pulsed with frenetic electronic possibilities, the period that followed after was more settled. Sasha married Masha Piankova, who also joined the band, and guitarist Dmitriy Konyushevich had a child, whilst drummer Pavel Fedoseev began an ambitious solo electronic project, KIKOK. Whilst having a bit of time off to do such things, the rumble of their live performances still cascaded around their ears and heads. The success of their tours in the UK and Europe had subconsciously created a template and tone for where the band would go next; to capture that surging drive and throbbing assault of their pulverising live shows. “We decided to make this record more live and less electronic, we were thinking about how to make it sound more dynamic.” Sasha states.
Masha’s introduction was a key one, with her replacing Sasha on synth bass whilst he moved over to second guitar to add a fuller and more impactful sonic crunch. “We all love that she’s come into the band and expanded our sonic universe,” Sasha says. Masha knew the songs inside-out from touring with the band and seeing every show, but it had never dawned on her before to make music. “I’m having the best time of my life making music,” she says. “It’s such a pleasure, I don’t know why I wasn’t doing it before.” This fresh energy coming from a conventionally inexperienced person can be heard echoing throughout the resulting record.
Whilst domesticity blossomed in the band via weddings and births, another less positive development was also taking place that would go on to shape the approach and output of the record. “Personally, it was a rough time for me,” Sasha says. “I started to experience panic attacks. One day I thought: ‘this is it, I’m going to die right now, and that this album is my Eraserhead.’ Thinking: ‘what am I to do with you, my ugly baby?’” The album had been part recorded in the same old soviet radio station, part in a professional studio and then part at home. It then took months of mixing to get the feel of it right. “It was like the putting together of a puzzle,” Sasha reflects of the period in which figuring out his own mind was a similar problem-solving exercise. However, despite anxiety creeping into the fragmented recording and mixing process, the results brim with a magnitude and sense of coherence that belies some of the environment it was created in. Fuzz-driven guitars shift in engulfing waves, resembling shoegaze giants at their most ferocious, whilst elsewhere layered vocals stack on top of one another, weaving between pristine melody and augmented discordance. Whilst the glacial electronics and coldwave tendencies that soaked much of their previous album may be more absent here, this record pulses with an electronic tinge that bubbles more subtly under the surface of immersive guitars. With the completion of this album, it also wraps up a trio of records all connected via punctuation – Ngan! Tschak! Mu! – but with one each distinct in its own tone and sense of evolution.
The nine-track offering starts with ‘Utro’ which has a hypnotic kraut rock beat, reverberating synth and fuzz drenched guitars; it’s a great track to get things underway. The first single ‘Sword in the Stone’ has a heavier industrial vibe, with a spoken lyrical style and clashing sounds that shape things up nicely. ‘Irma’ has a kinetic energy that sets feet tapping almost instantly whilst countering is a deep bass groove and ‘Glasgow Coma State’ invokes a dreamlike state with evocative vocals creating wonderland imagery. So far we’ve had hints of lots of genres and styles, all executed well, showing the versatility of the band and why they appeal to so many. ‘Sine Waves Are Good for your Health’ continues with this playful aspect, channeling some Eastern sounding psychedelic vibes and ‘Progulka’ continues in this vain. ‘How Do You’ on the other hand could have come straight from a Spacemen 3 album, offering up some seriously dreamy shoegaze qualities, complete with echoing vocals and reverberating guitars which leads into the concluding ‘Feel Now’ a noisy little blast to round things off.
Gnoomes appeared out of nowhere not to long ago, but with albums like this its fairly certain they’ll be around for some time to come.