Review: Gnoomes ‘Ax Ox’

Seeing as I’ll be in attendance for the Gnoomes gig at Low Four in Manchester on the 24th March, it made sense for me to review their latest album. The quartet who formed in 2014 are from the city of Perm in Russia and Ax Ox, their fourth full-length to date, follows up from the ‘exclamation mark trilogy’ of albums that includes 2019’s MU!, 2017’s Tschak! and 2015’s Ngan!.

Gnoomes 'Ax Ox'

According to the promo notes, Ax Ox is Gnoomes‘ most Russian release to date with the decision to sing the lyrics in their mother tongue and according to band member Sasha Piankov, it’s the result of ‘our audience is getting older with us and our music could have had more connections with these people, if we sing in Russian’. Said notes elaborate further that the record is a reflection of the band’s mixed relationship with their native land, which, considering the effects of the pandemic, illness, depression and the seemingly never-ending Ukraine conflict, is hardly surprising. It should be pointed out that two of the members fled once mobilisation started taking place which puts most bands ‘challenges’ into sharp perspective.

Ural Sun, a reference to the Ural mountain range, which is close to their home town of Perm, and at one time known for its extreme levels of air, water and radiological contamination as a result of the Cold War nuclear industry. The music is reflective of this resembling the glitchy electronic krautrock of Radioactivity by Kraftwerk. There is a brilliant contrast of a comforting yet unsettling feel about the track, potentially indicative of the album to come.

Ax Ox has a very Stephen Morris style motorik drumbeat and there is a late ‘70s/early ‘80s post-punk/new-wave shimmer and edginess that stands in sharp contrast to its more atmospheric and subdued predecessor, I hope they play this one live. The Neighbour continues in this vein but with more gothic and darkwave overtones. This omnipresent darkness is such that one wonders whether the title is an oblique reference to Russia’s neighbour Ukraine. A fantastic track whatever the case may be.

bringing to mind the legendary Kraftwerk with its propulsive hypnotic beats, spectacular stuff…

Mirror, at a mere one minute forty-nine, is a neat electronica dominated sombre instrumental interlude Klaus Schultz style, while Loops is pure shoegaze influenced techno loveliness. Les Funérailles (Funerals) is a lot darker ambient focused, think Lustmord, Nocturnal Omissions etc, those kinds of artists, which leads nicely into Eternal Trans Siberian again bringing to mind the legendary Kraftwerk with its propulsive hypnotic beats, spectacular stuff.

Bristol is the home of trip-hop heroes such as Tricky, Portishead and Massive Attack and thus it makes sense for the aptly named Bristoled to bear the hallmarks of that sound. It’s a beguiling number which, I for one, can’t get enough of as it segue-ways into the ambient The Bridge so effortlessly that you would be hard pressed to even guess that the tracks had changed.

Salted Caramel takes you down a far more abrasive and noise damaged industrial path, recalling the likes of The Young Gods and maybe even Foetus, which I’m certainly not complaining about, finally NST concludes the record in a soulful no wave/funk fashion ala ESG and Liquid Liquid, and if that doesn’t sell you Ax Ox I don’t know what will.

In a world dominated by the unimaginative likes of Nickelback, Greta Van Fleet, U2 (The latter’s recent album Songs of Surrender features unnecessary acoustic renditions of ‘choice cuts’ from their extensive catalogue) and X-Factor styled cookie cutter crap, we have to thank god for the likes of Gnoomes for saving us. An exemplary release. 

Label: Rocket Recordings
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills