The guitar/drums duo was one of Rock’s freshest clichés in the wake of The White Stripes’ enormous success, as dozens of similarly structured outfits sought to capture the same lightning in a two-person bottle. Few duos make the visceral impact or cover the incredible range of Cleveland’s Mr. Gnome, comprised of impish guitarist/vocalist Nicole Barille and hammer-and-tong drummer/keyboardist Sam Meister.
Over the past seven years, Mr. Gnome has amassed a fiercely loyal audience with an unlikely mix of Electronic atmospherics, Art Pop melodicism, Shoegaze blister and Avant Rock eclecticism, as evidenced by their amazingly diverse trio of albums: 2008’s Deliver This Creature, 2009’s Heave Yer Skeleton and last year’s excellent Madness in Miniature.
Barille and Meister — a couple in the personal as well as professional sense — have somehow managed to find the sonic intersection of influences and styles that wouldn’t normally appear on the same iPod.
Barille’s vocals suggest the controlled histrionics of Björk and Kate Bush, while her guitar not-so-gently rips into riffs and runs with the staggering weight of Tony Iommi and the creative ferocity of Tara Key and Ume’s Lauren Larson, all of it performed with an unbelievable blend of power and precision. On his end, Meister builds a rhythmic foundation sturdy enough to support a skyscraper while adding keyboard flourishes with the delicacy of a dew-covered cobweb.
Mr. Gnome has been on a pretty good run over the past year. Last December, Rolling Stone named the duo a band to watch in a three-and-a-half star review of Madness in Miniature, and ABC used two songs from their earlier albums in the debut episode of summer crime procedural Final Witness.When The Big Time comes calling, we can tell it, “That’s Mr. Gnome to you.”
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