Announce new album MU!, due
31st May 2019 on Rocket Recordings
UK Tour in May/June
Gnoomes, the Russian outfit who blend a potent mix of psychedelic stargaze, kraut techno and
The band will also return to the UK in May and June for a tour, including London’s Shacklewell Arms on 30th May. Dates are as follows:
Saturday 18th May – Zavod Shpagina, Perm, Russia
Thursday 30th May – Shacklewell Arms, London, UK
Friday 31st May – The Peer Hat, Manchester, UK
Saturday 1st June – Cluny 2, Newcastle, UK
Monday 3rd June – Norwich Arts Centre (w/ Wooden Shjips), Norwich, UK
Wednesday 5th June – The House of Rapture, Southsea, UK
Friday 7th June – Phase One, Liverpool, UK
Saturday 8th June – Exchange (Triptych Festival), Bristol, UK
“I put all my energy and life force into this record,” says Sasha Piankov of Gnoomes, the Russian outfit who blend a potent mix of psychedelic stargaze kraut techno kosmiche pop.
When Gnoomes released their killer 2017 LP Tschak!, it came after a turbulent period that saw 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. Piankov 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,” Sasha says. “We were thinking about how to make it sound more dynamic.”
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.
The sonic balance achieved on this album is one that stems from a balance found in Sasha’s life. “I found a way of dealing with the panic attacks through meditation and concentrating on music,” he says. “For me the album is very anxious and joyous at the same time.” He likens the duality and split personalities present to the most recent series of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Mu! itself as a title has Japanese origins and comes from Zen Buddhism – something Sasha began to practise during trying times – meaning both “no” and “nothingness” and the understanding that the acceptance of this concept can lead to enlightenment. “For me personally it’s a spiritual record,” he says. Although any sonic warbles of new age blandness couldn’t be further from the end results here. This is a cleansing record, no doubt, but one that washes over you with both brutal force and deft subtleness.
Environments, be them internal or external, have shaped much of this album.
“You can’t separate the environment where you live from the art that you do,” Sasha says. And previously this has been reflected in the intense isolation the band have felt from living in Perm, a more remote and culturally limited place in Russia. This continues to be present on this record but it also absorbs the geography of other places, such as the remote childhood village Pavel grew up in. “It was so dark and gothic that his stories about spending summer as a child running through the rye fields, sounded very surreal,” Sasha says. “Dmitriy wrote a guitar part inspired by his vision of Pascha’s childhood but also of his own experience being there. Sometimes our music is really heavily linked to the places we travel to because investigating the previously unseen is really important. Then we go back to our grey city and dream about our experiences.”
The pummeling rhythms, dense atmospheres and droning vocals of “Irma” – that sounds like a lost recording from Liars’ Drum’s not Dead. – captures Sasha and Masha being evacuated in Miami due to Hurricane Irma. And yet another place to feature is Glasgow on the electro-shoegaze swirling vortex of “Glasgow Coma State”. “It’s based on the Glasgow Coma Scale which is used to assess the level of consciousness after they have an injury,” Sasha says. “I was reading Embassytown by China Mieville and the city he depicts in the book reminded me of Glasgow so much. One idea came to mind about a boy who is in a coma state but this state is nothing but a post-apocalyptic Glasgow – which looks pretty post-apocalyptic in the rain – where he fights with different creatures, which are his own imagination.”
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. From Bowie to the Cure to Moderat, musical history is peppered with great musical trilogies and now Gnoomes’ Exclamation Mark Trilogy can be added to that.