Faca de Fogo by Gnod & João Pais FilipeRelease date: July 3, 2020
Label: Rocket Recordings
For this album, I chose to hold off on writing the review until I had gotten an insight into the recording and collaboration process. I usually like to go into reviews as blind as possible, but I thought I would see how things were effected actually knowing what the fuck is going on. Faca De Fogo is the first collaboration between the greatest band in the world Gnod and an artist who’s work they all admire, João Pais Filipe. The results are something different from what has emanated from either project thus far but, as we’ve seen from Gnod’s previous collaborations and the many excellent collaboration albums by bands like Boris and The Body; if you wanna stay on top of your game, keep fucking with your sound and bringing new ideas and new perspectives via new shit-hot collaborators.
The album begins with a solemn clarinet that sounds timeless, indigenous to a state of mind: somewhere between egodeath and a planetary mindset. You could soundtrack any point in history with this, take it and attach it to Koyaanisqatsi at any point in the movie and it’d fit. I think this sense of pursuing spirituality is inherent to what these artists have been trying achieve in their work for a long time. The focus on entrancing rhythms, repetitions, and drones designed to activate your wider sense of engagement is present even in their heaviest output. I can’t speak as an authority on Filipe’s music but, as far as GNOD are concerned, the themes of their recent work ranging from The Mirror, Just Say No and Chapel Perilous are a journey of self-reflection, political dissatisfaction and a slow-burning awakening of some sense of either psychological relenting or spiritual actualisation.
Having seen performances from the wider Gnod Gnetwork at Rocket 20, not only did I have a profound, life-changing experience watching the debut of ‘Donovan’s Daughters’ whilst tripping on LSD, but I saw in the sets of ARHKR, Dwellings and Ayn Sof that the core principal at the crux of the Gnod commune is human connection and self-awareness. In these highly introspective sets the focus was on creating a sense of calm and mediation to reach higher consciousness and feel that sense that the the earth is bigger than any one society or life form, that the universe is bigger than comprehension and the more you recognise how small we are, the bigger the importance of the connection seems. Life is short when you think about how many orbits we’ve done around the sun and how in relation to the universe, it’s just a big orange baby in the sky with a little toy ball covered in dirt and humans.
At that festival, I experienced first hand Gnod co-founder Paddy Shine crawl through the crowd in a haze of incense and ambience and hug every member of his audience and ask them how they were; the music was not a performance of the self or an act of entertainment, it was facilitating a transmission of emotion and energy or “vibes” between individuals. I fully believe that these are artists who make music because they feel it connects them powerfully to other people. Not just as listeners themselves who began like most of us with cathartic connections to people who understood is in a world so bogged down in lonely, corruptive ideas, but also as artists who feel the energy of their audience as a transcendental experience. The legendary Mike Dench of Goodsouls Promotions once told me of an outer body experience he had watching Jane’s Addiction at a festival where he flew over the entire audience and became entangled with the energy of the performance; there’s an extent to which I feel like this is what these artists are trying to facilitate with their music.
“Escape is now definite” the first line of ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ from The Mirror struck me as someone bogged down in the political oppression of the current era, not just the right wing, not just the overt, but the one percent, the conglomerates, organised religion for profit, the prison industrial complex, the military industrial complex, the media, Murdoch, social media algorithms, spin, and advertising. I thought that music was a chance to take a pause from this, it’s not. The reality is that I misunderstood what was happening, escape is not a recess, the way to escape this is to just…say no. It starts with each of us turning inward and saying I’m not gonna buy anything from Amazon despite the convenience, I’m going to buy local (or off fucking Etsy) and fair trade and eat vegan. I’m going to make shit for myself, I’m not going to allow myself to buy the greatest lie there is: there are no good people and bad people. There are no tribes.
The sad thing thing is that most of us are so financially broken by the aristocracy, that we’re forced to comply because the food that is bad for you is cheap, the shitty mass-produced products are affordable, good quality and handmade materials and items are as fucking gentrified as housing. The left wing and the right wing do not exist. It’s a marketing ploy. Society does not benefit from you saying that someone else is a bad person, we are all just people, sentient, intelligent animals. Society does not benefit when you fight each other over stuff that does not matter. If you live under capitalism, the greatest thing you can do is take your money and keep it in your community, keep it away from the billionaires who let others starve whilst making more than they could spend in a lifetime and never paying taxes. Don’t waste your energy on convincing the broken that you can rescue them to some bullshit neurotypical, post-christian moral superiority. The truth is that if you want to be a voice for progress you have to aim at the real problem; wealth inequality.
The money and the resources are there to feed, clothe and educate every person on the planet, if people clamp down on tax evasion and stop giving their money to people who break the rules and act as though they are above them. It’s a simple thing, you can do your bit by simply treating everyone with kindness and respect, knowing full well that you have no idea what their background is or how their neurology works. If you have to make two tribes, it shouldn’t be left wing and right wing or good people and bad people because this is all a distraction it should be between billionaires and everyone else because every problem we have comes from that: poor housing, poor education, lack of public spending, racial profiling, lack of mental health support, overcrowded and poorly ran prison systems, weaponised military acting as oil prospectors.
Stop reading the newspapers, stop hating other people, start connecting and listening and putting kindness first, it all starts with you. The further you look into that ever-expanding cosmos inside you, deep into your consciousness the more you can see that, life in our society has been made unnecessarily as overly-complicated and as confusing as a con artist’s anecdote as they’re robbing you blind.
I would say that the lack of clear identity or placement in Faca De Fogo is important to its ability to reflect its context. The tribal rhythms have a sense of innate humanity to them, as though if you sat down and jammed with someone from any time or any place they could play this with you on a drum they made themselves. We talk about modern psych and psychedelia and it may be that the latter is often fetishised for the stuff of adolescent yearning like “free love” (understood by most as more casual sex but, actually referring primarily to the death of typical relationship standards and paradigms, non-monogamy, ananormativity, relationship anarchy, queer tolerance and kink-positivity) and ample use of psychedelics. One parallel that doesn’t seem to be discussed as much is the importance of the idea of community and the “commune’ both to modern and the post-Hoffman dawn of psychedelia. It’s important to remember that these are not new ideas, that places like Christiana in Copenhagan, guardianships in the UK like Islington Mill and anarchist holdings like the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle (I would note these examples are from different decades, not just years) are all connected by much older ideas, that nobody needs to be ruled, that people are inherently good and will behave as such when nurtured properly.
Gnod’s R&D sessions, numerous side-projects, label and collaboration albums (see Temple Ov BVV, Gnod/BSNU and the Black Gnod bootleg with Black Bombaim as well as the obvious Drop Out/Aquarian Downer with White Hills) have shown a desire to always explore new terrain and to allow each other to grow via what could be called cross-contamination spreading like a human virus, mutating and developing with each new interaction. I guess if you wanna be more flowery, you could call it cross-pollination. It shows a sense of acceptance for community, I can attest to this as someone who was given the unique pleasure of being allowed on stage for an R&D session, that it’s a very open-minded and earnest process to be involved where you’re given free roam to coalesce with their process. It makes me wonder if they ever know what the fuck they’re doing or if it’s just pouring into some invisible trepanation wound from a higher consciousness. Faca De Fogo is a very successful representation of this approach of jamming with whoever wishes to and creating something that feels transcendental perhaps as a result of its own sincerity; it feels like you’re being welcomed with open arms because you are.
It occurs to me at this point of ranting that half the album has spun by and I’ve lost myself to introspection or ranting… whatever. One thing I really loved about ‘Faca De Ar’ was its balance of noise-rock bass and guitars and synths that sound like something Ott would put out, against the more latinate drum rolls and kraut vibes. The kraut gets taken to the heavier end of Infinity Machines vibes in the clanging tones of the title track, the drums remind me of former HYNOM drummer Ilia Gorovitz’ work and finally, there are vocals. They sound like they’re being sang from inside the TV from Poltergeist; engulfed in static with sinister undertones and a mechanistic presence. Given the amount of theoretical spewing I already did in this review, I’m not going to attempt to deconstruct the lyrics. I will say they do make me reflect the role of violence in our society and also, they make me think about global warming and environmentalism, for what it’s worth.
I love how brutal and relentless the title track is, but my favourite moment on the album is when it goes from eye-peeled back Clockwork Orange level car-crash morbid repetition and garishness to Raikes Parade playing this sweeter than bubblegum ostinato on a noise sequencer at the start of the final track ‘Faca de Agua’. It’s so pretty and blissful and the opposite of everything on here. It just sounds really innocent against an album that feels like everything from the planet to our technology mutating into tar-splattered origami, like watching the decomposition of the anthropocene sped-up and then suddenly this little guy flies in and dances like a cartoon rainbow bunny with wings. I love it. I also immensely enjoy that the album ends sounding like a dial tone slowing melting in a furnace.
I’ve taken up too much of everyone’s time now, but, I think Faca de Fogo is something to make you reflect and engage with others and it sounds really fucking good. I hope this review encourages you to buy the album and delve further into these brilliant artists. It’s definitely made me want to get to know João Pais Filipe’s music better.