Review of TSCHAK! Album by Gnoomes

Few press releases contain a better gift than the claim made by Russian-based trio Gnoomes that whilst Tschak! Was being made they "...haven't had an opportunity to use psychedelics during the recording process... It was a challenge for us to find the legal ways to make psych music without it."

Gnoomes TSCHAK! Album

The main reason for being without lysergic inspiration was a bust by the cops that landed them five days in jail, a term which given Western impressions of the country's penal system still seems relatively lax. No matter. Tschak! is their second release, one that isn't "Psych" in the narrow confines of the global movement's thriving retro scene, but instead draws to it a range of influences both ancient and progressive.

Sometimes these trips are defined only by their fuzzy, inarticulate boundaries; Opener Super Libido Awake begins with surges of white noise and strangled pedals, a spectral free form which then gradually dissolves towards a fuzz pedal look through what proves throughout to be a rapturous looking glass. Defiantly analogue, the threesome remain largely indebted to a range of near antique cold war gear in lending their music a unique ambience, the woozily simple archive programming of Maria  giving the cosmic synth pop a nightmarish 20th century edge.

If much of Tschak! Has the aura of a retro travelogue, the effect is quite deliberate.  It's accompanying bylines reveal guitarist Dima being evacuated to the Urals with his grandfather in the scrambled wake of the Chernobyl disaster, the sort of unrinseable trauma that adds disassociation and kinetic energy to Severokamsk and the title track, each jumbled and discordant, the latter cloaked in mangled voices and the distorted tones which Richard D. James utilised to such dark effect on his earliest techno platforms.

As much as their recorded output speaks to a creative demon that wants to f*ck things up, the overtones seem to yearn oddly for the pre-Glasnost era, one in which state control and societal discipline mocked the West's cultural infidelity. One Step is built on hypnotic krautrock grooves where layered sounds itch like conformity: what sounds like a harmonica then takes this soul sucking and leaves a chink of light open against the concrete and corrosion.

This may sound bleak, a soundtrack to the fulfilment of many of our authoritarian nightmares. But the dystopia is only as real as we make it, a truism that allows this record to be awkwardly beautiful (City Monk) and then sci-orchestrally far out (Closer B-Day), collisions of dreams, places and refracted colours that will have the listener as intrigued as much as they're astrally out of mind.

Salvaged from the past but teeming with life, Tschak! is stateless music grown by those who seek to eclipse and break down the physical realms they feel they're trapped by. Like fifty years of history in a single bound, its potent quest is never quite centered enough to truly lift off, but the journey is still snippets from a captivating parallel world.

Gnoomes on Bandcamp -