[from MadeLoud, January 7, 2009]
It’s both tempting and common to say some musician or group defies genre. Perhaps they slink back and forth between similar schools of music often enough to avoid the confines of one, or perhaps they borrow from such disparate sources it becomes too difficult to identify the material with any of it.
Cleveland’s Mr. Gnome could easily warrant such description, but that would be patently false; Deliver This Creature, the duo’s full-length debut, cannot be labeled as having no genre, just small, sometimes infinitesimal pieces of nearly all of them. And the disc, both musically and plainly speaking, is also very strange and possibly off-putting.
Opener “Pirates” comes off as your average art-blues, but just as the band establish a comfortable setting, follow-up “Rabbit” builds from an excellent digital delay-fueled intro solo to a dreamy, Dead Can Dance-with-handclaps anthem, then to a chorus straight from the Smashing Pumpkins playbook, then back again.
Elsewhere, “Silhouette” floats along on an ethereal acoustic pattern that wouldn’t be out of place on a Mazzy Star-Van Morrison duet, yet two songs later the frantic, low-end riffing of “After the Sun” goes straight for the jugular. . . before lapsing into a fit of Jeff Buckley-flavored hallucination pop. . . then goes back to the vicious riffing. And therein lies the problem with Mr. Gnome: there is no real way to talk about them simply as Mr. Gnome, because no real identity emerges long enough to take hold.
If anything, the duo has less in common with overtly difficult bands like Forget Cassettes or IQU and more closely resemble sonic shapeshifters like A Perfect Circle and The Beta Band, but even this isn’t fair because guitarist/vocalist Nicole Barille and drummer Sam Meister don’t really sound like any of those bands – they simply are like some of those bands. Kind of. So what is Deliver This Creature?
As a drone metal album, it doesn’t really drone too well, and it’s not really riff-based enough to fall under the stoner rock umbrella. It’s too rough to be an art rock record, but not rough enough to be punk; some might call it trip-prog, but the repeated injections of sonic abrasiveness render any accusation of lucidity moot. All told, what matters is not what anyone chooses to call Deliver This Creature outside of a few choice adjectives: adventurous, compelling, and highly unexpected. Barille’s vocals are at once the lull of a siren and the screech of a harpy while Meister expertly navigates the grooves between bombast and endless space. If “challenge rock” is to become the next wave of emerging music, consider Barille and Meister its champions.