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Gnaw Cut No Corners On “Cutting Pieces”


The mastermind behind the experimental noise band Gnaw, Alan Dubin (Khanate, OLD), also works in film and video, and you can really sense this when experiencing the totality of the group: one whose setting is spatial, intellectual, and challenging. Dubin’s previous band, the experimental doom legends Khanate, were very much inspired. It was music that felt like art and film: sensual, fluxing, and not afraid to reach for something outrageous.

In fact, back in 2001, when Khanate’s debut came out, it helped tempt me back into heavy metal, mostly because it was in direct contrast to what I disliked about heavy metal in the first place, which was the lack of daringness and art in the musical form. Pantera, Metallica, Megedeth, man; I hated those bands. It was all surface stuff to me. Khanate was more like the Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Pharaoh Sanders and free jazz, stuff that had to be dug for, worked towards to appreciate. Khanate was a revelation, they opened up a new portal for me to start listening once again to the really heavy stuff.

Gnaw’s newest record, Cutting Pieces, which you can stream in full exclusively below, is a real experience, or at least some dream that’s so vivid you can’t ever shake it (like that nightmare about dinosaurs and your house burning down back when you were six years old). You can listen to this stuff on your iPod if you want, but it’s meant for something realer, older and more genuine. The record’s asking you to be a part of it, begging you to concentrate and really feel it. It’s like jazz in that sense. “Prowled Mary” even sounds like an avant-garde composition coming from the basement of Cornelia Street Café, all sparkly, invisible diamonds, and with a mood that is penetrating.

“Extending Suicide” takes elements of industrial, noise, and film soundtracks and really positions you in the lead role. Dubin’s existential growls are like no other; he draws you in with the pain and introspection. His character is both alluring and murderous. The music is really strong throughout Cutting Pieces. There are guitars, bass, drums, lap steel guitar, Chinese cello, Weevil, conga, sawed off Kramer, and a host of other instruments used, achieving a inner-fire, like calm waters of smoke and terror, and beauty to drift you still.

Like a film that relies on its wits and invisibility, Gnaw is a band that requires some attention; they’re not going for asshole guitar solos and blast beats from Uranus, they’re seeking for what’s behind the tactile, impulsive, and cheap. Cutting Pieces is as tasteful as that first Khanate record I listened to some 16 fucking years ago. It’s about the side scenes, the corner dimensions, and the buzz that’s behind the wailing. It’s about noise, about power, and about creating a sense of hope within the darkness. The record’s shadowy but it’s really about the light. It reminds you that you actually haven’t wasted all these years listening to heavy music. There are still artists out there disguised behind genre tags and stupid metal tee shirts that stretch beyond: artists that are up front in their aggression and know that the difference between banging a pot and shredding an axe, is really about the story you’re telling; even if it’s about a story that might not make any sense at all: in other words, it’s a perfect memory.

—Christopher Harrington

Cutting Pieces is out on October 27th via Translation Loss. Two nights later you can catch them headlining Saint Vitus in Brooklyn with Couch Slut, Escuela, and Syndromes. Follow Gnaw on Facebook.

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