Jesi, Italy’s Gerda have been consistently left of center even when considering the competitively avant-garde realm of noisecore infused post-hardcore’s ‘weird for the sake of being weird’ ethos. Awkwardly labeled screamo at their start due to their constant toying with post-hardcore rhythms and noise punk riffing, none of these hardcore punk ablative labels properly described the project’s looming atmospheric influences. What would eventually surface in the form of heavily-dosed post-punk and post-metal relevant ventures would later define Gerda‘s sound. That their difficult to classify sound eats them alive in terms of interest in hindsight might irrationally suggest novelty rather than lasting impressions. In truth, in most every way a band like Gerda conglomerates the post-everything obsessed mind; Seemingly existing for the sake of the superficial, the sake of something different and/or something new. The question in my mind, as I peruse their discography and dig up old discs, forms around the pretense of innovation and new textural balance or techniques. If we’d only gotten those first two of five total full-lengths I’d say my instincts were right. Yet since ‘Untitled’ (2009) they evolved and unshackled themselves into formidably honest post-whatever beings on ‘Your Sister’ (2014). If you look to their fifth album, ‘Black Queer’, as an equally daunting leap forward into something new you might be overreaching with your expectations. The latest Gerda record focuses more on deeper personal innovation, embracing their old and new selves, and in turn accepting the flawed ‘self’ in unifying their collage of post-modernist styles.
If ‘Your Sister’ was noise punk moderately compressed into noise rock’s solitary confinement, then ‘Black Queer’ is a free-floating toxic cloud of post-punk acridity further polluting a post-apocalyptic Amebix-esque landscape. Gerda layer seeming chaos and dissolute punk aggression amidst finer sheets of subtle (and not-so-subtle) noise experiment; “Terze Regno” is the most immediately identifiable example of this as high volume reveals meticulous detail amidst a deceptively simple rhythm. The method employed takes as much from early 90’s Neurosis and ‘Kollapse’-era Breach as it does from bands like Fugazi (and especially like Drive Like Jehu) in creating dark but never hopeless pockets of irregular rhythmic interest; The peak of this approach comes when “Hafenklang” tosses in some subtle Amphetamine Reptile/’Strap it On’-esque noise rock hits amidst the escalating Unwound style space-flung post-hardcore for a moment (and a piece) that highlights the progression since ‘Untitled’ released nearly ten years ago. As wretchedly typical as some of that might sound on paper, the heart of the album is still rooted in a refined version of the noisecore/post-punk combination that initially got the band noticed back in 2005.
Without gearing up any research or expectations came the final enlightening ten minutes of ‘Black Queer’ featuring two well-placed covers. The first comes from bassist Alessio Compagnucci‘s (Sedia, Beasts) former post-punk band Vel with “Figlia” in tribute to songwriter and guitarist Francesco Vilotta whom the album is dedicated to. The second cover is “Theme” from Public Image Ltd‘s ‘First Issue’, a track that might not have been mutated much but, was hard to recognize as it camouflaged expertly with the flow of the rest of the album. The record would still work without these covers but their inclusion ends up -making- the experience as a whole by further elucidating the method and the origins of Gerda‘s musical point of view. The ethos of creation and the philosophy at the heart of ‘Black Queer’ is as equally compelling as the resultant experimental music. The group suggests the album exists in the spirit of owning your differences, wearing them outwardly and with conviction; To be the diversity that people fear and to wear it like a shining weapon in opposition to one’s natural need to hide the rough edges of the self from the world. To not just be the black sheep but to empower yourself with such a status is a message most any intelligent folk should get behind.
What first seemed cloyingly ‘hipster post-whatever’ punk at face value eventually evolved into one of my favorite non-metal records from 2018 thanks to an excessive number of listens. There is a soundtrack to the chaotic rage of modern day life buried beneath the clangorous, chiming and rawly layered post-hardcore whipping of ‘Black Queer’. Gerda have created something especially resonant with this fifth album and it seems like they’ve arrived at that point through simply accepting and identifying the project’s ‘self’. It isn’t catchy or particularly memorable in bursts but, as a whole experience the post-exaggerated expression arrives at some undeniable value for my own tastes in the moderately absurd history of post-hardcore and noise punk variants. Moderately high recommendation, though it is perhaps too challenging for the even the most devout post-metal interested. For preview I would suggest “Notte” for cumulative vision, “Lulea TX” for its jagged and somewhat memorable opening rhythms, and “Mare” for the post-punk folks who only showed up for the PiL cover.
Screaming against the sea. 4.0/5.0
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