"The Heart Of A Dark Star" by Mr. Gnome (Cleveland, OH)/Art Rock/Released Nov 2014
The music duo has been a band set up that has had no shortage of talent and diversity over the years. Bands like The White Stripes, Black Keys, Royal Blood and others have been proving that two musicians can accomplish a lot with a little and can make music that sounds a lot more fully staffed than they really are. Mr. Gnome however has accomplished this feat to a degree that may even surpass their more well known musical peers.
Formed in 2005 by Nicole Barille and Sam Meister, Mr. Gnome have spent the past decade making a name for themselves with their unique,atmospheric indie rock sound. A heavy touring schedule, surreal music videos and photography, and several well produced albums and EPs have helped grow the band a devoted fan base and recognition from the likes of Rolling Stone, NPR, MTV and others. Their live shows have also gained recognition with the duo’s ability to stay true to their studio releases and create a full wall of sound through use of heavy reverb and delay effects.
“The Heart of a Dark Star” is the band’s fourth full length release and follows 2011′s well received “Madness In Miniature” LP. This release also marks the first time the duo have recorded an album fully by themselves via their home studio, allowing them to record and play with their musical ideas more freely without the pressure of a studio time table. The result is possibly Mr. Gnome’s most layered and dynamic release to date.
While guitar is the lead instrument of most of the album’s songs it isn’t as prominent and distorted as it was on the band’s previous releases. The focus centers more around the songwriting and Barille’s hauntingly layered vocals resembling a chorus of ghosts. While many of the album’s songs can be soft and melancholy there is still an abundance of upbeat tracks anchored by the one man rhythm section of Meister’s percussion.
“Melted Rainbow” makes for a strong album opener and is an exception to the record’s shift away from distorted guitar with it’s bass heavy, rumbling main riff. The catchy, head nodding drum beat well compliments the song’s groovy drone. “Rise & Shine” revels in its simple composition with its sing-along vocalization and consistent upbeat drums making it one of the most swiftly accessible songs of the album. “Star Stealers” is another upbeat track that is one of the few with recognizable distorted guitar. The song features a fast, upbeat tempo that builds into a great climax near song’s end. Also notable is Meister’s drum work that incorporates creative use of playing the rims of his kit and the marching rhythms of the song’s ending. “Odyssey” has more of a folk feel to it and similar upbeat rhythm to other tracks of the album making it a popular live staple. “Light” is the most distinct song on “Heart of a Dark Star” compared to the rest of the album with stripped down vocals and the instrumentation much more sparse. It’s the slowest and most dreamlike song of the record with organ being a leading instrument in the composition. The simple percussion and relaxed ambiance give it the feel of a trip hop song similar to Portishead’s work.
“The Heart of a Dark Star”, like much of Mr. Gnome’s work, is music that takes a patient ear to have stick. With the band’s highly unique sound it doesn’t have familiarity to rely on and the band’s focus on atmosphere rather than catchy choruses may take repeat listens to fully digest. However for those seeking art that’s truly unique and theatrical then Mr. Gnome is a band to give a listen to. With their ambitious productions and songwriting the duo only seeks to further expand their sound in the future.