Album Appreciation: Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy by GNOD

When I stumbled into what became known as the ‘psych scene’ around a decade ago, GNOD were already a thing… a collective that was revered by many who I talked and sought inspiration from in terms of taking that next turn down the rabbit hole. At the time my touchstone was the Liverpool Psych Fest, which was my annual introduction to new ideas and new bands. So it was in 2014 that GNOD played the Rocket Recordings stage on that unforgettable evening.

GNOD, Liverpool Psych Fest 2014

I used to love seeing the list of bands who were playing the festival and really getting into them as a way of deciding who I wanted to see (and yes it did involve the use of spreadsheets). I remember quite clearly listening to GNOD, and especially the ‘Chaudelande’ albums, ‘Ingnodwetrust’ and ‘Gnod Drop Out With White Hills II’ (White Hills were also on the bill, and Dave W played with GNOD that night); and being totally blown away by them.

GNOD, Liverpool Psych Fest 2014

On the night the set was utterly magnificent, and I wrote this about it the next day:

From the moment GNOD (excitingly with White Hills’ Dave W also on stage) hit the go button the packed Camp knew we were in for something special. This collective may be unpredictable in terms of who is on stage on any one night but this was a truly momentous performance of really exciting and visceral improvisations which took the audience to high after high after high. GNOD were in the mood to party and party hard. Hard and heavy as the beats, jazz improvs, repetitive drones and guitar attacks came in wave after wave of sonic attacks which at the same time gave us energy and sapped our resistance to impediment. It was a huge feel good performance at a time when we had been though huge slabs of intensity earlier in the evening. Inspired and inspirational!

This was the GNOD that I got into and the GNOD that lives with me to this day – although I have seen many great performances from them since (in various guises) most notably at the Rocket 20th Anniversary weekend – and this is the GNOD that I find here on this compilation of early tracks never previously released on vinyl… a couple only on MySpace! Indeed, it is interesting that I referred to the ‘visceral’ nature of GNOD’s performance back in 2014, because that’s exactly the word that came up for me when listening to this album. There is an underpinning sense of excitement borne from discovery here… you really get the sense of a group of individuals who are pushing the envelope… who are taking it just that little bit further… who are pushing themselves into something altogether more dimensional and spatial.

The set opens with ‘Elka’. This is a perfect choice because of the way it draws you in, not in any overt sense, but almost by stealth… there’s a kind of simplicity to it that perhaps catches you unawares… but through than you become engrossed in the almost ritualistic rhythm and before you know it you are away and on a different plane…

After that ‘Inner Z’ takes up the reigns and just runs with it… again there is not anything complicated here, but it immediately creates and atmosphere which lights up the room in an inspirational sense… because you feel you are immediately in a small dark venue… it’s late and you are swaying to the music as it passes through you… it’s simple and it is powerful, and reminiscent of so many gigs where you come away just feeling at one with life…

Part of this is due to the repetition, which Paddy Shine talks about in the release notes for this album:

“Repetition is great for long dance floor jams or subtle head squelchers. Repetition helps with the telepathy we developed when playing.”

…and it is repetition with which is also evident in ‘They Live’… but it is the spacey guitar riffs too that really grab you and enable you to achieve consciousness escape velocity here. The musicians here are totally on it… and you can feel the tightness and immanence of the collective here too… I could really listen to this on repeat all day, and at the end of it feel as if it had gone by in a moment while feeling strangely replete…

‘5th Sun (Chaudelande Version)’ has an altogether heavier vibe… like a star that was just about to explode… I imagine the room shaking with the sound while the band stand round a live cable sparking in different directions. There’s a sense of unknown menace here… perhaps fed by a dystopian outlook which this sound marks the realisation of. Either way there is an opaqueness to this track which is both compelling and challenging.

There is a change again with ‘A Very Special Request’ which is as chaotic as it is aggressive… the vocals here are totally in your face and here’s particularly where the word ‘visceral’ comes in because there’s a real sense of being on the edge here.. of pushing and pushing to see how far something will go, and what would happen if it doesn’t… the fact that it still gives off that feeling 10+ years later is remarkable.

As ‘Deadbeatdisco!!! Part 1’ starts you get the feeling that this is going to be a ride that you need to be strapped in for… and that is absolutely the case. In some ways this is a slow burner… but that’s if you’re burning a string of semtex parcels that explode one after the other rendering all round it as a wasteland… it’s like everything around folds into the music (when I first listened to it a neighbour had a skip delivered, and I only realised later that this hadn’t been part of the track)… this is a thirteen minute track whose intensity builds constantly until you are in a position whereby you feel somehow pressed to the chair like the guy in the Maxell advert…

… then comes the live version ‘Deadbeatdisco!!! Part 2’, which takes things to a completely different level… the whole thing opens up and you are there and you just want to dance your fucking heart out… this, in particular, is the GNOD I described in Liverpool… the GNOD that are totally fucking up for it and just don’t want to let go… BY COMPLETELY FUCKING LETTING GO!

Right you can sit down again now… because GNOD have one track left and they want to totally fuck with you brain on ‘Frostbitten’. This, in many ways, it the other side of GNOD… the atonal free-experimental side who let rip in a totally different way. This is disturbing and fascinating at the same time… part of you doesn’t want to listen anymore, but a greater portion is totally buying into it… I mean it’s like little else you’ll hear, and still sounds fresh to this day…

…and that’s the thing about this set. Even though it pre-dates most of what I know GNOD to be it still sounds vital and, yes, visceral. It still challenges and makes sense in equal measure and, perhaps most of all, it arouses and stimulates a gamut of senses to provide you with something of a rounded experimental experience. So while it perhaps represents a moment in time which could never now be repeated… it represents it and records it very well. Therefore, while I will never know quite what it was like to be there… I now at least have my own version of how it may have been… and that’s more than enough to be digesting.

‘Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy’ is out now on Rocket Recordings.



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