Gnod @ Broadcast, Glasgow, 8 Dec

Gnod's collaborative performance tonight is full of atavistic chants and lung-full-of-helium squeaks; a worthy dream – not just for their future, but also for ours

Live Review by Dafydd Jenkins | 13 Dec 2017

“Remember the good old days, mate?” barks sardonic Gnod vocalist Paddy Shine over a din of frenzied drums and warped electronics. He illuminates: “these are the good old days.” Gnod aren’t a group too concerned with their own immediate past. 

Last time the Salford lot were this far north, they were visibly buzzing off the release of their foaming drone rock mouthful Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine – so much so that the explosive chaos of their set at Glasgow’s Flying Duck seemed to detonate their interest in rock entirely, leaving a fertile clearing for the group’s next incarnation. This time around, Shine and Gnod co-founder Chris Haslam have shed a few 'Gnodheads' to bring their exploratory project on the road as a two-piece – having also acquired two percussionists somewhere along the way – but you could hardly call the results stripped-back.

Where once there were at least two, Haslam dons the only guitar in the room, but it barely sounds like one. Each familiar instrument on stage is fed through boards of inscrutable devices, as Shine and Haslam’s Starship Enterprise knob-turning stretches and pulls each sound into outlandish shapes. Voices expand and contract from atavistic chants to lung-full-of-helium squeaks. “There’s too many faces inside the mirror”, Shine murmurs, and his vocal manipulating machinery lends each face a distinct, hysterical voice.

It’s all the work of one of the tightest jam bands around nowadays, each monadic player’s divergent musical path ensuring rigidity is held firmly at arm’s length. It brings to mind not merely the space rock of Ash Ra Tempel, but also the squiffy heat of a 70s Miles Davis cut, reframed within the industrial towns of Greater Manchester.

For all their dismissal of mythic pasts, Gnod’s balls-to-the-wall set of semi-improvisations harkens back to previous eras of like-minded individuals exploring unknown sonic territory. Yet where many psychedelic acts today dabble in nostalgia for middle-class festival-goer dads (looking at you, Kikagaku Moyo), Gnod can’t help but view the ongoing history of psychedelic music as an inherently political one, as in the radical arrangements and anarchistic vein of early krautrock (is it any wonder that they recently collaborated with faUSt?)

The press release for tonight's show invites collaboration, “be it singing, shouting, dancing, bringing an instrument/device to the table or just simply tuning in and coming along for the ride.” Sure, it can be hard to find participants for this kind of freeform collectivism; tonight, there are fewer than 30 people present, and only one first-time collaborator percussionist can realistically be called a 'participant' in tonight’s performance. Yet Gnod certainly make their communal project seem like a worthy dream – not just for their future, but also for ours.