<img src=”http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6058/6307085616_2895a5604d_m.jpg” alt=”The cover of Madness in Miniature, which features a creepy looking rabbit figure wearing a gas mask in a freaky looking apocalyptic environment” align=”left” hspace=”10>The covers of Mr. Gnome’s discography convey something sinister and dark, with evil-looking rabbit figures in apocalyptic landscapes, and even their name conjures something mystical and unknown. But their music is neither dark, sinister, nor mystical. It is, however, complex and captivating, and Madness in Miniature (El Marko) their new album released last week, is worthy of deep and multiple listens, and one of the best releases I’ve heard this year. The album is like one huge movement, with highs, lows, and effortless transitions that are less filler and more ingenious build-up in the form of fuzzy, melodic glue. Lucky for you, you can hear exactly what I’m talking about since you can stream the entire thing via Soundcamp.
Like Buke & Gass, Nicole Barille and Sam Meister are a duo that commands a powerful range of sound. Barille’s vocals and guitar provide much of the melting effects of Mr. Gnome: they alternately fuzz, rage, or melt melodically, often in contrast to each other, with licks and loops all around. The well-metered bang and buzz of her guitar, held down by Meister’s drumming, grows and twists throughout the album. Refreshingly, they’re a band that’s hard to pin a genre to (I tried to phrase something along the lines of “prog verging on metal with a touch of psychedelic,” but everything I thought of sounded pretentious, and worse, inaccurate). They rock hard, but their melodic interludes and upsets are frequent (and clever) and the arrangements of vocal layers are superb.
The album quiets down a little at the end with “Winter,” and “Watch the City Sail Away,” which provide dreamy respites to the harder songs, yet still feel part of a larger opus, and are a testament to the band’s ability to create lullabies as well as breakneck rock songs. But the last track, “Capsize,” brings it back again to drive the album home, Barille’s bright vocals against a frantic instrumentation. Her guitar accelerates to an unstoppable pace, finally crowning to a conclusion. She does the same thing with her voice, keeping it low and steady and then breaking into an alley cat howl of lyrics.
I love the album, but seeing them live confirmed Barille’s talent. She commands her guitar and pedals deftly to create the complex arrangements heard on the album: Soaring vocal loops are laid over droning, powerful guitar chords, and haunting reverberations capture you, only to abruptly crash back into a hardcore power chord. Once and a while she would treat the audience to a miniature shred fest.
I would recommend listening to their work first, since the sound on the video below isn’t very good (especially vocals), but you definitely get a sense of how hard they rock. See if they’re coming your way soon on their webpage!