In celebrating the niche, the ferocious and the shudderingly loud, Getintothis’ Paul Higham finds Gnod and Barberos at the peak of their ear-shredding powers.
Saturday evening proved a tough sell. A number of competing events, including a free show by the big impression-making Bad Breeding, coupled with the prospect of a full bank holiday of partying hard at FestEVOL on the near horizon left gig-goers at Buyers Club rather thin on the ground.
Where we’d normally use this opportunity to rail against the lethargic indifference of Liverpool’s gig-going community this time we’ll be more forgiving. Even discounting alternatives, this was always likely to prove a tough sell. Two bands who specialise in an unabashed full throttle intensity full of pummelling ferocity and shuddering volume are always going to struggle to crossover into mainstream appeal.
This is something of a shame for the evening provided ample evidence that in Gnod and Barberos the North West has two bands who are approaching the peak of their powers. They may not have played to many but, for those in attendance, it is likely to live long in the memory – if only for noise-induced hearing loss suffered by those willing to brave the aural onslaught without adequate protection!
Barberos provided a blistering opening with the two all-in-one, lycra-clad drummers foregoing the stage for a place on the floor amid the audience (or the space where the audience should have been). Where once the centre-piece of the trio’s sound was the flamboyant excess of the two drummers, this performance indicates a subtle evolution in their sound.
An attack of gnarled and twisted shape-shifting electronica wallops you from the off. It is face-meltingly intense, twisting and jerking through dense and unpredictable patterns. The drums continue to pound in a display of barely restrained virtuosic polyrhythms yet, and crucially, they also hold everything together exercising control without shouting it from the rooftops.
And that seems key with Barberos now, everything feels like it belongs together. Despite the apparent chaos, the breathless energy and the juddering turns it works as a singular whole, somehow perplexingly finding harmony and order where it appeared there were none.
Equally remarkable were the night’s headliners, Gnod. Finding the bare-bricked interior of the Buyers Club a home-from-home and propelled by the propulsive energy of twin drummers, they kicked up a swirl of a sonic storm that offered little in the way of respite during a relatively short 40 minute set.
Based in Salford, Gnod have a reputation as a collective of sorts, yet their new album Mirror offers a leaner take than 2015’s sprawling Infinity Machine. Rarely subtle, it is a record borne out of a righteous anger full of blunt and brute force.
This dynamic formed the basis of their live show. Aggressive and intense and built on the taut foundations of riveting bass and driving drums it offered a peculiarly English, dare we say northern, interpretation of the motorik spirit. With repetition standing at its core coupled with an unrelenting sonic bombardment of dissonant guitars, it made for a concisely delivered articulation of anger
Paddy Shine’s vocals embody a sense of paralysis. Rather than howl and growl in the expectation of rebellious change, the semi-spoken mechanical delivery seems to encapsulate the futility of protest when the odds are so inexorably stacked against you.
In such a scenario music, with its visceral power and its undimmed ability to shake and to shock, seems to be the last voice. Where once folk music documented the music of protest, today the burden seems to fall heaviest on the noise-rock sphere. In combining elements of metal, avant-noise, space-rock and propulsive kraut rhythms Gnod keep the flag flying higher than most.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Brian Sayle.