The otherworldly tonal soundscapes served up by electronic duo Gnostic Grain have a strange and often unsettling effect on the ear. There’s a sense of ambiguity lurking in the depths of their music that proves elusive to nail down which, arguably, could well be the point.
Hailing from Manchester, the outfit consists of Dave (electronics, percussion, vocals) and Kev (electronics, ambience, vocals). Describing their work as “dark ambient electronic music”, at times their compositions are reminiscent of the more esoteric efforts by Julian Cope or Zeit-era Tangerine Dream.
Ostara represents their third album release, named after the German Goddess of Spring, and was “inspired by the positivity felt by the approaching change of seasons.” Consisting of four longform compositions, the album combines both electronic and organic instruments with the odd smattering of whispery vocal effects. The chief element of Gnostic Grain’s music appears to be the rhythmic percussion, which at times seems to emulate the beating of the heart, lending the work a ritualistic aspect.
Opening track ‘Cernunnos’ (apparently a nod to the mythical ‘Horned God’ figure from Celtic tradition) embodies this approach with its drone-like murmurings and indistinct vocal elements. ‘Altar’, meanwhile, has a more cosmic quality which seems less claustrophobic, but still introduces brooding synths and washes of white noise.
At times, the disquieting natures of the compositions bring to mind the soundtrack of Possum, a Radiophonic Workshop score that seemed to seep into the senses in an uneasy fashion (matching the film it came from). On that basis, it’s ironic that Gnostic Grain view Ostara as having a “brighter more optimistic view” than previous releases.
‘Crowning’ offers a slower percussive beat, lending this track a more meditative quality. At times, the combination of unusual percussive effects and synth moods brings to mind OMD’s ‘tone poem’ compositions.
Gnostic Grain are going to appeal to people who are seeking out a darker and much more esoteric experience in their listening adventures. Certainly, the “pagan electronica” aspect of their music suggests a very niche demographic, although it doesn’t prevent the compositions from being intriguingly hypnotic.
Ostara is aout now: https://gnosticgrain.bandcamp.com/album/ostara