Be Aware Of Your Limitations by GnodRelease date: May 18, 2018
Label: Burning World
This release has been up on the Roadburn bandcamp site all year and is obviously going to be overshadowed by new album proper Chapel Perilous but, if you’re a keen Gnod head, now’s your chance to own a copy on vinyl and glory in the vivid psychedelic vomit splat artwork and pleasingly experimental content. Islington Mill’s psych lords celebrated 10 years of Gnodding with the honour of being made Artists in residence at Roadburn 2017.
They played four sets across the weekend including one as Temple of BBV (their collaboration with Rocket Men From The Moon) and a nominally ‘greatest hits’ set. This isn’t either of them. Nor is it a live document of last year’s fierce and furious JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE album. In what I guess we have come to see as typical Gnod style it isn’t even a ‘live’ record in the generally accepted sense. Recordings made of their “stand out show” on 20th April were subsequently handed over to dark sound wizard Andrew Liles who is credited here with ‘Additional instrumentation, xenochrony, editing and final mix’. Xenochrony, if you were wondering, is the mystic art of taking one part of a recording, a solo or a rhythm track say, and sticking it somewhere else, possibly a different track altogether, possibly in altered form.
It’s not clear quite how much tinkering Liles has brought to bear here, short of a full collaboration name check maybe but more than an engineering and edit job. In the bands words “The original recorded stems have been reworked/remixed and torn to shreds by Andrew Liles”. This restless willingness to push things further, to bend and break forms just to see what happens is Gnod’s greatest gift. The results here are two side long tracks ‘A Visit To The Doctor’ and ‘Protect Yourself Now Or Suffer Later’ that form a unified whole, finely balanced between the band in loose experimental mood and the sort of abstracted soundscaping Liles gets up to in a fair amount of his solo outings. If you weren’t previously aware of Liles he’s a regular member of Nurse With Wound and prolific solo artist – 50 this year he’s marking that milestone with a project called ‘Colossus’ which when completed will be 50, 50 minute long tracks, and it probably won’t be all he releases this year either. His output is ridiculous.
If he’s torn the recordings to shreds they still form a consistently engaging and changing backdrop to the reading aloud of a couple of NHS communications regarding appointments and treatment for tinnitus. The vocals are delivered in fairly matter of fact way, mostly without emotion, and appear to get a straight run through before being subjected to any dub space tinkering and distortion. It’s easy enough to let them play as another texture in the soundscape but if you turn your ear to them they become a meditation on sound and our relationship to it, the horror of failing or damaged hearing. Liles plays a little bit on tinnitus like effects and a range of clicks, whistles and buzzes move back and forth across the soundstage. Both tracks are almost completely beatless and it comes to feel like a shadow image of a relaxation tape.
This is especially pointed on ‘Protect Yourself Now Or Suffer Later’ when advice regarding the effect stress can have on tinnitus unwinds over rising industrial drones. On the whole it’s pretty uneasy listening but there are still occasional quiet pools of calm when the cold wind seems to die down. The final declaration “Clearly you need to act sensibly and be aware of your limitations” is spat out and then winds into a defiant squall of noise that makes it seem unlikely such advice will be heeded.
So, if it might not be one you reach for too often or turn out to be anyone’s favourite Gnod album it’s still a fascinating record and I hope they’ll work with Liles again in the future.