Mu!, the third album from Russian krautrock progenies Gnoomes, might be seen as an exercise as panic prevention through enforced calmness.
It opens with a moment of towering, terrifying rigidity in the form of ‘Utro’ before moving swiftly on to the gentle swelling fuzz of ‘Sword In The Stone’. The sunrise guitar twangs of ‘Sine Waves Are Good For Your Health’ precedes the abrasive blur of ‘Ursa Major’.
Accept your terror and be at peace, could be its mantra. But, much like the krautrock movement, Gnoomes are so keen to draw on, these sorts of binaries – easy as they might come – do little justice.
Mu! isn’t a simple exposition of opposites. It’s not an exercise in tugging the listener between sonic panic and harmonic relaxation. Rather than seeking to balance its abrasive moments with spells of gentle, spacey respite it aims to find symmetry in the asymmetrical.
The soothing sway of ‘How Do You’s vocal refrain isn’t a makeweight for the track’s caustic guitar sounds. Instead, it’s an invitation to find peace in the noise and tension in the unanswered question of its lyrics. Both parts slot together for an emotive whole rather than one mediating the other.
The pounding rhythm and echoing synth of ‘Progulka’ meet the track’s broken, rattling guitar line and discordant jangling not in a clash of juxtapositioning but with a sense of totality.
Komische Musik indeed.
This sense of unity in contrast doesn’t always quite come off. There are moments of incongruous audio aggression. There’s the occasional spell of compositional obviousness that undermine the savvy found elsewhere. But there’s something fundamentally cathartic about Mu!
Though built from contrasting parts, there’s a sonorous completeness to Mu! that seems indicative not just of a band finding their best form but a creative process that’s been both trying and rewarding.