Expo 70, GNOD, Ancient Ocean: Mello Mello, Liverpool


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Salford’s GNOD produce seismic slabs of death disco as Behind The Wall Of Sleep lay on another feast of super sonics.

There’s little to prepare you for GNOD.
First impressions suggest three leftover specimen’s from a Levellers convention; all knotted dreadlocks, beat up threads and weathered skin, they cower over a table festooned with all manner of electronic gismos.
We barely notice the pipe-cleaner thin figure with a pitch black bowl cut sat on Mello Mello‘s stage steps, hunched over with his face pressed into what looks like a book in an oversized cigarette case.
For several minutes there’s just slow, dry electrical surges seeping down the curtains of wires and wires and wires. More wires than you’ve ever seen.
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Then the first of many drums kick in. Like a fleet of boats on a whaling mission, the thrashing of beats, steady and persistent rolls through the tiny corridor interior of Mello. The full force seems to stick right in the back of your throat, pushing you hard in the chest and leaving a deep rumble in the belly.
Then the hunched figure wheels on his bottom and begins to scream. Unintelligible verbosity is unleashed peering out of electrical storm as the unrelenting industrial swipes continue.
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Finally just as the sound reaches some kind of apex, a whole new force is driven home – the three figures twist wrists, plunge buttons and suddenly we’re amidst a nuclear psych-punk dancefloor which has the primal ferocity of Jilted Generation-era Prodigy married to the intensity of Throbbing Gristle.
By now, vocalist Neil Francis is on his feet, swinging around the crowd like a sozzled Bobby Gillespie and the music adopts by turn a trippy dub feel before mutating into tribal Afrobeat – it’s crying out for more people and a bigger dancefloor.
By the time they close in a haze of frazzled dissonance, Arabic keys motifs and twisted bass shockwaves we’re left exhausted and ecstatic and utterly overwhelmed.
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Expo 70 at Mello Mello for Behind the Wall Of Sleep.jpg
After a brief interlude, our headliner, Expo 70 makes his entrance. Sitting cross legged with his back to the audience, Justin Wright, engages with his audience via the power of pedals and reverb-heavy guitar.
For 40 minutes there’s few downtimes in sound, no interaction or vocal, little moment save for the odd twitch of his limbs – just steady propulsive echoes and a rising hum of loose, textured guitar.
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A classic student from the archives of progressive noise, Los Angeles-based Wright fixes much of tonight’s set on a tapestry of droning ambience ala Ash Ra Tempel or the more spacial glides of Tangerine Dream. Yet, where much of today’s drone artists pilfer the likes of Sleep, SunnO))) or Earth, Wright opts for a more different tact, rarely staying put, constantly changing tones, adding layer upon layer to the monumental sounds swirling round Mello Mello. Affixing our attention, it’s a skilful tactic and one which works perfectly in a set which is short in length but measured in drama.
Much of which could be improvised, but Wright commands such a deliberate direction, ever climbing higher to a state of otherworldliness that it seems all part of his gigantic masterplan. When everything collapses and the pedals are crackled off the moment silence leaves us gasping for breath,
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Earlier, came a darker beast. Ancient Ocean is the vehicle for John Bohannon, and where on record his music can deviate into progressive, neo-jazz territory – especially when accompanied by the likes of saxophonist Daniel Carter – tonight, he sits alone, stage centre with the swell of a lone guitar and effects peddles.
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There’s an insular feeling to watching the lone Brooklynite axeman rock forward, tapping pedals and building up a vacuum of noise; yet factor in the crackling rain of visuals landscaped by Behind The Wall of Sleep dude Sam Wiehl and the rich, and profoundly blue tone to Bohannon’s finger-picking and you find there’s nothing singular to what’s unravelling; more an enveloping warm, almost toasty feeling. Like his name suggests – a great wave of sound which washes over, steady and comforting.
Getintothis Behind The Wall of Sleep feature.
Pictures by Andrew AB.