Over two full-lengths and a scattering of EPs, Russian outfit Gnoomes have refined their self-described "stargaze" sound, which uses a platform of Krautrock, shoegaze, and techno as its launchpad for deeper explorations. After finding some traction in Europe thanks to a deal with U.K. label Rocket Recordings, they doubled down on their electronic elements for 2017's frosty and cerebral Tschak! LP. With their third album, Mu!, Gnoomes have headed in the other direction and engaged more deeply with their organic impulses. The addition of a fourth band member, Masha Piankova, on keyboards, allowed singer/bassist Sasha Piankov to switch to guitar, pushing them toward a more guitar-driven approach that seemed to better reflect the intensity of their live shows. The resulting album still relies heavily on the pulsing Krautrock rhythms and spacy experimentation they've used in the past, but with a more spontaneous feel, especially on layered cuts like "Utro" and "Irma." The Beatlesque album highlight "Glasgow State Coma" delivers Mu!'s most engaging melody, proving Gnoomes know their way around a pop song, even if it's nearly six minutes long. Almost in answer to that track is the similarly melodic "Sine Waves Are Good for Your Health," whose dreamy '60s U.K. psych vibes are built around a droning rhythm whose high-tuned, tabla-like drum fills and repetitive single-note picking resemble a dazed-out raga. "Sword in the Stone," another standout, falls into a more traditionally shoegaze camp, albeit with eccentric little spoken-word affirmations amid its tonal splashes. At their most expansive, Gnoomes let their Kraut-psych meter run on the seven-plus-minute "How Do You" and its sped-up addendum, "Feel Now," which closes out the album. Generally more accessible than their previous outing, Mu! still feels like a snapshot of an adventurous band who remain in a state of near-constant flux.
by Timothy Monger