Rock isn't dead, but as trends go, traditional guitar rock is in a downswing, commercially comatose in the shadow of tastemaking hip-hop and dance acts that have co-opted rock's swagger and youthful energy. History tells us that the pendulum will inevitably swing back, but for now, we all know at least one legacy rock act, local or otherwise, that has dressed up its music with gaudy synth elements or fumbled its way into electronic pop.
In that respect, few Triangle acts deserve more praise than GNØER. This Raleigh electronic rock institution, formerly Goner, now pronounced "knower," spent most of two decades valiantly ignoring trends and industry whims. On the new Precepts 1-12, the band spins out graceful instrumental electronica that's brawny and textural, if played relatively straight.
Goner was a vocals/drums/bass/keys affair that usually eschewed guitars, and the rebrand into GNØER marked its transition into a fully instrumental, fully digital trio. The Southern pop-rock vocals have receded into a barrage of MicroKORG chirps, bulked-up drum machines, and vocoder dust. Elegant, linear synth work is the foundation of most of these tracks, though they occasionally twist into emotive post rock and free-form synth jammery.
"Misplaced Modular" is a spiraling, futurist psychedelic shredder that recalls Tangerine Dream. "Some Weird Gift" tightens the pulse into a paranoid 4/4 industrial techno stomp, and "Loaves Out" harkens back to the sauntering strut of Aphex Twin's "We Are the Music Makers." On "Blackmore" the band wriggles a Sega Genesis FM synthesis bass sound and overdrives it into a blown-out dystopian march.
For deep electronic freaks, this music might not sound that groundbreaking or strange, as it stems from a fairly traditional perspective. But given GNØER's temerity and lack of pretense, it isn't hard to love this record for highlighting a sort of genuine, unmarketed creative expression, something all too rare in rock-influenced synth music these days.