Album Review: Arrow by Gum Takes Tooth

I spend an inordinate about of time wondering “how the fuck did we get here?” It’s a sign of the climate that we are living in that this, like the start of this sentence as well, has become something of a cliché. Things seem to have become so fucked up that we even seem to be taking plausible threats to our power, food and constitutional security as if they were some sort of dystopian parallel universe that has no bearing on our actual existence… a virtual paradigm shift that we hope will never happen.

Ignore the evidence… fuck the experts… project fact is project fear… fake news is that which we don’t want to hear…

The past… the fucking past… a beautiful time of hardship… a time for heroes… help those heroes… the memory of those heroes… times were simpler and happier then… we had nothing but we had each other…

The past… the fucking past… a beautiful time of hardship… dull vinyl roofs on brown cars… everything’s gone beige… three day week… candles to barely light the darkness… rubbish piling up in the streets… we had nothing but we had each other…

The past… the fucking past… closer and bleaker… banks going tits up… austerity… kids being pulled into poverty… schools and the NHS barely coping with the rise in poor mental health… rising suspicion in the other… demonisation of the other — the foreigner — the scrounger — pissing on the homeless… anything outside the hall of mirrors of the echo chamber… the present… the fucking present… not all it’s fucking cracked up to be…

The future… who wants to go there? Time to take back control… what a fucking joke! It’s all been fucking fetishised.

The twenty-first century acceleration of culture is such that the mundane everyday increasingly seems to be spinning out of control. Amidst a warp and distortion of reality whereby alienating modes of contact interweave with intimidating power structures. Inhabiting the city thus quickly becomes no less than a constant battle for both time and space. 

Gum Takes Tooth bandcamp, accessed 29/1/19

Where to start? Where to finish? Gum Takes Tooth are dealing with the same existential shit as the rest of us, and as a result have produced an album that doesn’t exactly make sense of it… but is a reflection of the times in which we live. Jussi Brightmore, one half of the London duo, explains:

I was experiencing a very difficult few years, as was most of the rest of the world – filled with contradictory contrasts of uncertainty, moments of cavernous bleakness shot through with searing revelations, ecstatic truths and joyous hope. Basically, becoming a dad in these times, thinking of the present and the future that it’s aiming to construct, has brought all these up, intensely magnified and amplified.

Gum Takes Tooth bandcamp, accessed 29/1/19

The world seems bleak, and this epic and panoramic double album reflects this… there are some very dark moments here. There is often a heaviness that seems to be almost overwhelming, a complex cacophony that the listener needs to work out to find their way through… yet when you do there are also moments of clarity… beautiful vignettes of melody that relive the tension and reveal the hope, without which we would surely be sunk.

Nowhere is this more the case than on the title track, Brightmore again:

It concerns the small change victories and comforts our culture portions out to us to placate us and prevent action towards change – the lie of self-empowerment and paranoia is the ‘weapon offered as a gift’. It ends with a call to arms to look inward to find the weapon to overcome this.

Gum Takes Tooth bandcamp, accessed 29/1/19

Elsewhere ‘No Walls, No Air’ is a truly claustrophobic track with it’s heavy metallic beat and stark pulsating rhythms, you can really feel everything closing in as you listen… while ‘Slowly Falling’ has an eerie airlessness to it… the feeling of being in a vacuum… depression and decompression a clear and present danger.

‘Apogee’ gives you the feeling of being stuck in a damp post-apoclyptic basement with live cables flying about before ‘Borrowed Lies’ sears its way through. This feels angry, but also controlled… a cogent narrative amidst the chaos… an attempt at normalcy as all around feels like it is collapsing… start making sense of the past… no fetishisation here… What a track though!

After that ‘Dream Circle/ Cloud Cycle’ seems to take a step back, like ‘Apogee’ an interlude before ‘Fights Physiology’ is a really disorientating listen that has you all over the place when you hear it. This is one of a number of points on this album that you may find is difficult to listen to. It’s abstract and disjointed, but I also find it to be accessible, particularly in the context of the album as a whole… this for me is a superb slab of electronica that is metaphysical and giving.

‘Seizure’ is another short interlude that is veiled and fuzzy… the meaning struggling to get through… perhaps because we are overwhelmed by the many perspectives and cultural mores that we encounter. This is followed by ‘A Still Earth’ which feels like wading through a sonic morass. It is heavy, and it is slow… and it feels nihilistic as it seems to suck any form of meaning out of us… there be no dragons… only a void… but with a modicum of humanity right at the end.

Wow… I feel empty… and had the album ended there it would have been a really bleak way to finish. That’s not to say that ‘House Built of Fire’ is a total act of sonic redemption, but it does bring us back into the here and now and sends us out with something a little more balanced. Here darkness and light seem to compete on a much more even playing field, and there is at least a power to this track that suggests that more is possible than some of this set. It is almost whimsical in places.

This is very much an album for our times. It reflects really well the sheer fucked up nature of our current predicament. It does not pull its punches, nor does it employ rose-tinted glasses to see the past as being anything other than the confusing existential melange than it is. It is an album that genuinely tries to make sense of things without veering towards either heroic or the wholly dysfunctional. It is an album that essentially fears the worse, yet still hopes… a hope that does not bleed into denial. A stunning portrayal of the angst that these truly strange times engender.

‘Arrow’ is released by Rocket Recordings.



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