By Jon Milton
Russia's finest export Gnoomes have been producing wonderful music on Rocket Recordings since 2015, and will hopefully be bringing us their fourth album in 2021.
Given their musical diversity, which incorporates krautrock, shoegaze, electronica, indie rock and more, they seemed an ideal choice to approach to find out more about the artists that have influenced them to make the music that they do. I spoke with Sasha from the band, who spoke about growing up in the USSR, being blown away by the Aphex Twin and more...
Photo: Alisa Calypso
How did you first get into music/what were your early influences?
All 4 of us started our music way as kids. Since childhood we realized that there is something behind this world which doesn’t need an explanation, yet it could be explored non-verbally. Obviously, in the post-soviet space there were not so many things going on. Luckily some of our parents owned a few cool LP’s, for example the early Beatles stuff. 'Obla-di-obla-da' was a huge dance hit in the USSR. We have a VHS footage where 1 year old Masha is dancing to this song. Pasha’s dad was more into the Russian rock (weird mixture of poetry and poor music arrangements). Pasha recalls the moment when his dad was smoking a cig in their wooden house in the village and crying over the Scorpions ballad. All of it had a great impact on our minds for sure.
How did you get into playing / writing music yourself?
Again thanks to our families, music has been a big part of our lives. So we spent our early days reflecting and imitating the outer world. Then in the 2000’s comes the Internet and suddenly we get a massive source of digging into. And at some point when you’re starting to consume too much content, you need to release from it somehow. We found out that the main solution is to make music by your own. We were around 15-17 years old at that time.
What was the first gig you went to?
Can’t remember the first gigs we’d been to, but one of the highlights in our lives was the Aphex Twin show at the Field Day. We were absolutely destroyed by the visual and audial level of the live performance. That was our proper 'first' gig could be said.
What was the first record you bought?
My first LP that I got was the first 'The Police' album. It was my entry to the 'new wave scene' and I started to dig into history of music more specifically.
How have you discovered and explored different genres of music?
Through times the approaches of discovering new music change, but the core is the links/mentions that lead you to another piece of music or art in general. For example I read a book about 4AD’s history. Suddenly those names pop up right before my eyes and I’m really curious: why haven’t I listened to this earlier?
Another way of finding new music is through digital platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, etc. NTS’s been a really helpful tool for me and Masha to find new stuff during the lockdown.
Photo: Alisa Calypso
Do you go through phases of listening to different music genres, or just dip in and out?
It’s different all the time. When I was in university I preferred listening to music, like not 1 particular album, but the whole discography of an artist in the chronological order. Sometimes it got really boring but I kept on insisting, making myself dip in as you said. Now I’m not so harsh to myself. It doesn’t make a huge difference to me what to listen to at this moment. Spontaneity is my driving force. For example I could be happy to watch a crappy TV show or to listen to a really cheesy and disgusting Russian pop and it makes me inspired.
How have different artists/genres of music influenced the way that you play and write your own music?
I guess there are different stages of influencing. First of all, as I mentioned earlier you just copy without thinking. Secondly, you copy with thinking. Thirdly, if things go well you don’t copy at all, at least you’re now aware of it. I’m always fascinated with the production side of a record. I’m trying to listen not only the seen content, but to hear the circumstances behind making an album. Speaking of huge music influences, there is a couple of things which changed my life completely when I heard them: electronic reverbs from Selected Ambient Works, Klaus Dinger’s motorik, King Tubby’s echoes, Kevin Shield’s glide-swelling distorted guitar. These are the pillars and foundation of my music work.
Do you have any pin ups or artists you consider to be musical icons? Who are they?
As a kid I didn’t have a poster of any musician/band. So I never thought of music artists in terms of being icons. What I mostly appreciate in true art, that there should be emotions and personal history. For example you hear the Arthur Russel’s voice and you don’t have to analyze the lyrics, you’re just completely blown away. I don’t know how I came across with the Nick Drake’s records in high school, but hearing his weird guitar tunings with his saddened voice made me revalue my ways of perception.
Have you modelled yourself on any of your heroes, in the way you perform live, or play an instrument, or sing?
There was a moment in my life, which I consider to be a 'face-palm' moment and don’t like to remember it much... Around 10 years ago I had a band where I was trying to copy the Thom Yorke’s manner of moving on the stage like hysterical dancing. Now when I revisit the footage of one of the gigs, I feel: 'OMG, that’s awful'. I’ve never tried to model on anyone since that time.
Is there one song by another artist that you’d wished you’d written, and if so what is it and why?
This is one of the main reasons why we make remixes. Sometimes if we love a song we can contact an artist and ask for the stems. This is a great opportunity to pay some respect, but also to connect to the song’s world and luckily to expand it. Frankly speaking, I often bite my fingers when I accidentally hear something really good. Oh boy, you’d better don’t look at my hands!
By Jon Milton
‘Not a concept album per se’ says the press release accompanying Arc, the latest album from White Manna, but one that ‘sees the band exploring new directions that are more meditative in nature’. And an exploration it certainly is, taking in psychedelic jazz, krautrock, space rock, psych-rock, electronica and experimental psychedelia along the way, to wonderful effect.
A journey from start to finish, Arc delivers a masterclass in tripped out noise over its nine tracks, segueing immersive, expansive tracks with short interludes to create a pretty darn special listening experience.
It helps of course that the album subtly borrows elements from so many excellent influences along the way. Opener ‘Arc’ momentarily begins as though recreating Terry Riley’s classic ‘A Rainbow in the Curved Air’ before asserting itself into a swirling space rock / krautrock juggernaut with delicate flecks of trumpet a la ‘On the Corner’ era Miles Davis.
The elements of jazz really lift the music throughout, combining with seventies electronica on Mythic Salon, dystopian space rock on Pilgrims Progress and experimental psych on the heady Surfer Moron and its continuation track Sailing Stones, which fade outs the album. The short interludes Pollen Ball, Painted Cakes and Soft Apocalypse could easily be jams with Boards of Canada, and Zosser, the only vocal led track on the album powerfully channels ‘Arc Lite’ period Loop.
Arc is released at the end of August on Cardinal Fuzz in conjunction with Centripetal Force for North America, and is available on cream vinyl + digital here. You can listen to Mythic Salon and Zosser via the same link to give yourself a flavour, although the album is obviously designed to be consumed in one rather than via isolated tracks. It’s a great ride.
By Ian Smith
I caught up with Nest Egg to coincide with the release of their latest album, ‘Dislocation’.
This is your third album and you are heading towards 10 years of existence. Firmly part of the establishment! Tell us a little about how the group started.
Harv: Yeah I guess it's been nearly a decade now. Strange to think about. Nest Egg started as a recording project between myself and our longtime friend and collaborator Cyrus Shahmir. The first sessions were in April or May of 2011 and were essentially just Cyrus and I but did feature a few other friends as well on percussion and sitar here and there.
The first LP came from that time period and was called ‘Billion Year Voyage (to god)’. That's the only release that didn't include Ross and Thom. Ross and I have been playing music together for upwards of fifteen years now in a lot of different incarnations and he was involved in some of the early Nest Egg shows off and on. He and Thom joined the group officially in June of 2013 and we started releasing demo tapes and touring that fall.
Your second album came out on Fuzz Club in 2018. Do you feel that this record is a natural continuation?
Thom: Yeah this album feels like a continuation of the last record. We tried to implement a darker theme to this one but it all seems to blend together naturally. The recording techniques we used were the same thanks to the virtuous hands of Cyrus Shahmir, our recording engineer and the other OG member of Nest Egg. He and Harvey started the group together back in 2011 and Ross Gentry and I joined in 2013 He’s adjusted the dials for the past three records and it feels like he’s never left the band even though he lives in LA, on the opposite side of the country to us.
Harv: The record on Fuzz Club was actually the third record. There was ‘Billion Year Voyage’ in 2012, then ‘Respectable’ in 2015(?), I can't even remember what year ‘Nothingness is not a curse’ came out. Oh, I guess that was 2018. I'd say this record is a continuation of the last, but I think that's true for all of them. I think you can track the lineage of the trajectory from ‘Billion Year Voyage’ all the way through every cassette, 7", LP, etc. ‘Dislocation’ is probably the most obvious continuation from its predecessor but it definitely has its own character. The record sounds meaner to me in production, and certainly darker in content. I was in a pretty dark place for a lot of the process of writing this record which comes through for better or worse.
I can appreciate the Krautrock influence in the music, which has been previously documented, but I am hearing an almost early-80’s industrial feel to the percussion. Is this kind of clash something that you will look to explore further?
Thom: Thanks! I am always looking for new ways to anchor the beats differently from each other. Nurse With Wound is definitely an influence. We recently found an early version of “Eraser” that we used to play live and it sounded very much NWW inspired. Before practices I’ll listen to something like Can for drum ideas and deconstruct a few things and see how my approach would be, then apply them and see what works and what doesn’t with the guys and create a new rhythm. I enjoy those moments when new patterns emerge from what wasn’t expected at the time.
Do you have any plans to tour Europe when things return to something like normal?
Thom: Yes! We would tour Europe anytime we got the chance, and especially after “Dislocation” is released and touring and shows become normal again. It'll be a good chance to bring our good friend and sound engineer, Arieh Samson along. He's been deep in the music industry and showed us the ropes when we toured overseas in 2018. Let's hope we get back to it in 2021!
Harvey: We're looking very much forward to a chance to go back to Europe. We did a few weeks in December of 2018 after ‘Nothingness’ came out and I think we'd all agree that it was the highlight of our time as a band thus far.
How has lockdown been for you?
Thom: Lockdown resembles a time out version for adults. We are all sent to our rooms (homes) and instructed to stay in seclusion and think about our actions, but it’s up to our ‘parent’ (government) to release us when they think we’ve learned our lesson. I’ve enjoyed my time during Quarantine besides not being able to practice as frequently as we once were. It definitely has given time to think and reset what our future will look like. I cannot wait for when touring and shows will become normalized again, but until then we are isolating and thinking about what’s next for the band.
Harv: I'm trying to look at the positive aspects. It's not very often in someone's life that they get the opportunity to stop everything for four months (so far) and gain a new perspective. I know that musically I very much needed to stop the rat race aspect for a moment and remind myself why I love it. I remembered that first and foremost I fucking love sounds, very very much, and I fucking love making sounds with Ross and Thom. It's really a special thing. I can't wait until we can get back to it, write some new material, record the next record, and go back on tour. I think we all probably laugh the most when we're travelling together.
Dislocation is out now on Little Cloud Records / Acid Test Recordings.
What We've Been Listening To This Week...Yard Act, Eyesore and the Jinx, Velvet Starlings, J.Zunz, The Utopia Strong, Protomartyr
By Jon Milton
Finally! April saw the release of ‘The Trappers' Pelts’ the excellent debut single from Yard Act, a Leeds based band compromised of Ryan, Sammy and George of Treeboy and Arc, and vocalist James Smith. This week the band returned with another piece of gold in ‘Fixer Upper’. Where The Trappers' Pelts saw the ghost of Mark E Smith recant a lucid tale about neo-liberalist values, Fixer Upper brings us a more John Cooper Clarke-like telling of Graeme, the archetypal overbearing self made man whose keen to let everyone know just how well he’s done. The band have an album planned, which on the strength of these two tunes and others played at the Dork Homeschool Fest, should be something to look forward to.
We featured two new releases on the blog on Friday, The Exile Parlour by Eyesore and the Jinx, and Karmic Lemonade, the latest single by Velvet Starlings. The former contains four quality tunes that combine intelligent, witty and acerbic social commentary with inventive, incisive noise which you can read about here. The latter marries Cream’s confident riffing with the Doors Hammond heavy vibes with a bit of Kula Shaker thrown in and you can read about it here.
Our other single of note out this week is Four Women and Darkness by J.Zunz, a solo project from Lorena Quintanella, one half of Mexican duo ‘Lorelle Meets the Obselete’ taken from her forthcoming album out on Rocket Recordings, ‘Hibiscus’. The song is a bit of a trip, swirling voices building around a mesmeric sonic background, building into an epic crescendo. Its well worth checking out alongside its video, which you can see below.
Equally mesmerising and immersive is the latest album from The Utopia Strong. 'Dreamsweeper' has just one track, 37 minutes in total, although it is available in parts 1 and 2 if you’d prefer. Part of a run of self released limited edition vinyl that has managed, within a day of release to have a copy appear on Discogs for over three times its original price, Dreamsweeper is a recording of a performance given at Oslo in Hackney in September last year. If you love experimental trippy music and are prepared to take the time to zone out to this, its well worth the effort. Give it a listen here.
Given the rash of albums released on the 17th, we deferred reviewing ‘Ultimate Success Today’, the new album by Protomartyr until this week so it could get a proper listen. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) its been inspired by lead singer Joe Casey having a mid life crisis brought on by their debut being reissued, with the band playing and recording it as a single unit and following similar daily routines. Titled after ‘get rich quick’ infomercials, most of the lyrics were written by Casey on the spot.
Now I have a confession to make. Lots of people have raved on about Protomartyr, but I’ve really struggled to get in to them. They just seem a bit bleak. Sometimes however you just need something to get you over the line and it might just be this album. The music seems lighter and more intricate than what I’ve heard before, its subtleties less dominated by its vocals, with even flourishes of jazz coming through.
Ultimate Success Now begins with Day Without End, sounding like a seventies Lalo Schifrin cop movie score, and then moves into a series of well constructed, powerful songs that culminate with the reflective Bridge & Crown and Worm in Heaven. Overall its an extremely compelling work and one that may serve as the best introduction from which to explore the band's music.
By Jon Milton
US Indie Rockers Velvet Starlings entertain our eardrums with a sparkling new tune out today on US label SoundX3, called Karmic Lemonade. It’s the second to be released from their Love Everything, Love Everyone EP, wearing its 60’s influences proudly on its sleeve.
The band is another ridiculously young but exceptionally talented bunch, led by 17 year singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Christian Gisborne and featuring Daniel Kostenko on drums/percussion and Tiaday Rocke on bass guitar. And if you’re feeling old and inadequate having read that, you’ll be delighted to know that they’ve been going for over 2 years, having released their first record in 2018 and have played all over the USA (including SXSW), Sweden and London.
Karmic Lemonade marries Cream’s confident riffing with the Doors Hammond heavy vibes, while mixing in a bit of Kula Shaker in the process. The song fizzes along (sorry, couldn't help it!), has a real swagger about it and it’s rather catchy too.
Continuing the nod to the 60s and 70s the video was of course filmed in Laurel Canyon, home to Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, The Byrd’s and so many more great artists.
The band expect to gig in 2021, and you may be wise to catch them if they play at smaller venues while you can, as they’ve got that commercial edge that will no doubt see them rapidly picking up new fans along the way.