The idea of putting acts as disparate as Gnod and Author & Punisher as a joint-headlining bill is certainly a strange one. Sure, they both love their drones but whereas the former are more lucid, fluid and organic, it’s hard to find anyone more rigid and abrupt in their approach than Author & Punisher. It does, however, mean that tonight has brought an eclectic mix of stoners, goths and out-and-out metalheads on this dreary Friday night, a colourful cross-section of the city’s underground.
Opening to a mere handful of such attendees, Elizabeth Veldon is someone whose name precedes her. As one of the more outspoken and high-profile members of Glasgow’s noise elite, there are certainly a few who’ve ventured out just to catch her in action and, given the skull-scraping nature of her theremin-only set, she rapidly proves an apt addition to the bill. Focusing largely on the high-frequency end of the acoustic spectrum, a lethal cocktail of distortion and volume ensures that every shrill blast pierces the brain like a thousand ice-picks, with each salvo stretched out just long enough to lie on the verge of discomfort. It’s a masochistic performance to sit through but, as any self-flagellating ascetic will tell you, punishment always brings pleasure with the pain.
Perhaps as a result of the previous intensity, when Pyramidion take up tools fifteen minutes later, the liquescent ripples of krautrock and guitar-based geomancy that they emit become even more hypnotic than usual. Knowing full well that the trick to a good jam is the build-up, they excel in ramping up intensity moment by moment, achieving a state of psychic orgasm at the point where Tukka Asplund’s occultish, distorted moans become lost in his own maze of six-string intricacies. This isn’t anything saying anything new for anyone who’s caught them here in the past few years, but what is refreshing is the sense of impetus they now possess, a ’57 Chevy with a busted handbrake left to free-roll and look cool as fuck while doing so. Great to groove to, dance to or whatever to, they’re a band at the top of their game right now.
Watching Gnod set up is a baffling experience, what with the dials and the flashing lights and the distinct lack of guitars. They seem a different band from the last time they brought their frenetic selves here and, as it turns out, they sound like one too. Their Twilight Zone weirdness is still in effect, all retro-spacey synth and splashes of sonic colour that mimic the effect of a brain being turned inside-out, though rather than go for bluster or volume, it’s darker and more affecting, 90s trance as envisioned by Julian Cope. Each member controls their own frequencies and range, collating their efforts into a massive, organic swirl of immense control and complexity that can be interpreted as danceable or as meditational, depending on the listener’s own headspace. As if in unsilent protest, Neil Francis keeps up his old guru-like persona, whirling, muttering incoherencies and guttural sounds and spending much of his time lying prone on the floor, an unpredictable overflow of character that battles head-on with the fine-tuned undulations of drone emanating from behind his back. It’s spectacle with substance and, even more so than before, it’s going to be a blast finding out what they have up their sleeves in the coming months.
If Gnod had worked out the alchemical formula for turning high-tech into organic motion, they haven’t let Tristan Shone (aka Author & Punisher) in on the secret. His Godflesh-esque nightmare of steel and sinew is unsettlingly mechanical, the linear workings of his dub machines leaving little room for warmth and reducing his state to that of an Americanised Tetsuo, a man-machine hybrid of terrible splendour. Distilling industrial into its purest form, traditional structure and timing go out the window and are replaced with his refinery white noise and pneumatic percussion, every juddering thump of bass drum as visceral as the last as he barks out what could be anything, the audience only hearing his words through filters of countless transistors, resistors and capacitors. For a time, he locks the room in a world which only William Gibson could have envisioned, a dark universe where flesh is transient and unnecessary and where silicon trumps synapse, and for this brief incarceration, it’s possible to see the genius of a man like Shone, an inventor in every possible sense and the only man capable of bringing this eclectic night to a satisfying climax.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes
Photos by: Peter Davidson