Gnod are remarkable. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the releases of Manchester’s seminal, and criminally underappreciated, band. Well, technically they feel more like a collective. Each release, and live show, features different people but they all fit cohesively under the Gnod banner. But for now, let’s stick with ‘band’. It makes more sense and keeps things cleaner. Musically they are one of those rare bands that makes really uncompromising music yet have a strong fan base. This is down to what I find the most remarkable thing about Gnod. They have incredible business sense that is able to see them release under Rocket Recordings and Tesla Tapes. It makes me upset that major aren’t run the same way. Take risks but be sensible. And makes me wonder what would happen if a major got involved with an underground band like Gnod, but instead of worrying about chart positions they just left the musicians alone, with a modest budget, and let them just create wonderful music without the worry of the bills.
But I digress. Kind of.
Let’s get back to the job at hand. The jubilation that surrounds a new Gnod release. And La Mort du Sens (loosely translated as ‘the death of meaning‘) needs to be celebrated. If this is the first Gnod album you’ve heard, then you are in for a treat. It contains a lot of the motifs that make it classic Gnod. Dense soundscapes peppered with biting social commentary. There are fewer psychedelic elements than on previous albums; instead they have been replaced with crunching, almost industrial sounds. This works incredibly well with the lyrics, giving everything a very ‘narked off’ vibe. Think of a heavier, and more pissed off, ‘Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine‘ and you’re on the right tracks.
The album opens with a sample of an interviewer asking “Ah, you want to tell us something about this new record in particular?”, then voices are layered under a garbled, cacophonous wall of other mangled ones.
Every now and again something escapes the static: “For us it’s a year old, but we’ve spent a hell of a long time working on it”, “We can compete. We use computers in an intellectual field”, “It’s like a psychedelic Mr. Potato Head”, “My dad came down to the street at three o’clock in the morning to fight someone” “Hopefully getting released”.
Under this an electronic fuzz grows, and swells, until it is overpowering the voices. Then, after some feedback, a guitar riff erupts from the speakers and ‘Regimental’ begins proper. Its catchy, heavy and repetitive. Once Gnod get locked into the groove, they stay there. Over this, lyrics are shouted sparsely “Innocent. I don’t think so”, “I can see it in your eyes”, “Innocence. Don’t give them what they want” and “Don’t kill yourself”, but the main event here is the most discordant thing of beauty. This is pretty much what I want from Gnod.
As La Mort du Sens progresses the music get more frayed and frenetic. ‘Pink Champagne Blues’ carries on the rhythmic themes of ‘Regimental’, but the playing is harder and more dramatic. The standout track is the album’s closer ‘Giro Day’. Opening to the sound of smashed glass, through which industrial sounds seem to be climbing to get out of the speakers. The main riff sounds like it is being performed by a bansaw, going through materials of different thickness. Some sections of it fly through, while others it really has to grind to make it. It’s nothing short of brilliant.
Deciding to record the album live, two drummers, a load of speakers and with their soundman and collaborator Raikes Parade feels like a master stroke. The album doesn’t feel like it was assembled bit by bit, in a studio. Instead, it is a taut affair, like a live set. Riffs are extended, like a live set, and the lyrics are barked intermittently to the crowd’s need. At its heart La Mort du Sens is an album about confusion and disorientation. It was recorded pre-pandemic but mixed during a time when even the most basic needs, going to the shop/work/meeting a friend for a walk in the park, was met with contradictory advice. There was no real definitive answer to any real question, so uncertainty set in. Throughout La Mort du Sens you can feel that uncertainty. The music manages to both entertain and put you on edge. As expected, there are no real answers here, only questions and a feeling of unease. But this is what Gnod do best. They show us a reflection of ourselves and ask us to find the meaning. Sometimes we are flattered by what we see. Other times we are terrified, but it’s down to us to make the decision.