Mr. Gnome is the sound of the Cocteau Twins as guided by My Bloody Valentine and PJ Harvey’s pipes transplanted into Tony Iommi’s body, an Ambient Art Pop hush married to a hardass Shoegaze squall that is equally invested in achingly beautiful melodicism and psychedelically compelling noise. The brilliant and surprising hook is that Mr. Gnome’s swirling sonic maelstrom is created by a pair of supremely gifted talents, guitarist/vocalist Nicole Barille and drummer Sam Meister. The duo (bandmates as well as a couple) bring all of their electric funhouse energy to bear on their latest album, the delightfully schizophonic Madness in Miniature.
Since launching Mr. Gnome in Cleveland six years ago, Barille and Meister have unleashed three full-lengths, a pair of EPs and a single, each of which has expanded their increasingly impressive artistic vision. It’s not merely Mr. Gnome’s wall-of-sound density that is so inspiring; it’s the intricacy, craft and diverse materials involved in the wall’s construction. Madness in Miniature clearly finds Barille and Meister at the top of their game, with Sabbath-like riffs juxtaposed against cascading Prog/Pop harmonies that run headlong into propulsive Indie Rock suggesting a Vulcan mind-meld with Björk in her Sugarcubes days, Kate Bush at her quirkiest and Sylvia Juncosa at her loudest and most outlandish. Barille can bludgeon with volume, hypnotize with subtlety and dazzle with dexterity while Meister possesses an almost supernatural ability to provide the perfect rhythmic accompaniment to the trippy tumult swirling around him.
Perhaps the most impressive element of listening to Madness in Miniature is experiencing the galloping megawatt power that Mr. Gnome generates in the studio and knowing that the adrenalized live version is likely to be even louder and more heart-stoppingly intense.
MR. GNOME plays the Southgate House Thursday, Dec. 1 with YOUNG HEIRLOOMS.