Gnomus II reviews
#50, Spring 2005
In Audion #46 I briefly reviewed a few releases from the Finnish Fiasko Records, of which Gnomus' eponymous offering interested me most. I described that CD as "a mixture of avant-underground (RIO and eccentric invention), jazzy twists and pure sonic art".
This new release follows a series of successful concerts developing their improvised approach to forming new associations in free-rock and jazz combinations. The trio of Esa Onttonen (guitar), Kari Ikonen (keyboards) and Mika Kallio (drums) certainly don't stick to any conventions in the three big tracks that fill the disc. The near 23 minute opener Sirens starts in ambling early Rypdal warm-up territory, with the mood getting more Gothic RIO topped by some rather peculiar vocoder, becoming more cluttered and chaotic. I'm not so sure about some of the rather weedy whining synth work towards the end. Hypnos is 10 minutes of scuttle and amble, with the musicians playing off and reacting to each other, but never really breaking out. Trauma aptly gets a little more demented again, and is the only work where they really rock-out in a freaky King Crimson like manner, before eventually dying away.
Gnomus again prove to be pushing at new frontiers and breaking them, although their choice of sound combinations can be a touch jarring and take some getting used to. They are definitely an act to keep an eye and ear on!
Gnomus is a trio playing serene music on "II" (Fiasko 17). Keyboardist Ikonen, guitarist Onttonen, and drummer Kallio enter a spiritual world where elongated notes rise as vapors into a becalmed sky. Onttonen stretches and bends mystical musings while Ikonen places a solemn hush on the performance with sustained calming keyboard motion. The séance is punctuated with lightly stroked cymbal splashes injected by Kallio intermittently. Just as weather conditions can change unexpectedly with leaves beginning to rustle and clouds beginning to stir, the band refreshes the static breezes with agitated action. Ikonen speaks through the keyboards as a power on high, as though handing down a message of reprimand to those below.
The recording consists of three long selections taken from a Finnish tour the band made in 2003. Each cut has elastic qualities and a ringing, reverberant tonality. Suggestions of Indian snake charmer music circle about as electronic highspeed utterances suggest weird vocal patterns of helium-inhaled consistency. The vocalizing becomes more pronounced on "Hypnos" where an ecclesiastic ambiance surfaces. Chanting of unintelligible syllables filter in and out of the music, which takes on more rhythmic characteristics through Kallio's accelerated drumming, Onttonen's wavering wah-wah output, and Ikonen's droning keyboards. With its supernatural outpouring, Gnomus appears to be in the trance-inducing business, although it falls short of causing levitation.
(used with permission)
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