Parachute For Gordo's New Post-Rock LP Is Driven By Percussion, Not Guitars

Photo: Courtesy of Wall of Sound PR

Parachute For Gordo's new LP, Best Understood By Children and Animals, diverges from the band's art-punk past. The result is an enthralling, throbbing, and incredibly percussion-driven document.

Best Understood By Children and Animals
Parachute For Gordo

Beth Shalom

14 February 2020

Post-rock boasts a long lineage of outfits driven by glassy guitars. Though birthed from the oft-unpredictable, highly surrounding-soaked likes of Talk Talk's Laughing Stock, Television's Marquee Moon or Slint's Spiderland, much of what has come to define the post-rock genre, be it June of 44's and Mogwai's tangled multi-guitar attacks or Godspeed You! Black Emperor's and Explosions in the Sky's cinematic crescendos, is driven by the domain of the guitarist. All that six-string texture is what led one prescient observer, after all, to half-dismiss the genre as "rock music for people who read too many books".

Just don't lecture on the subject to Parachutes for Gordo. The mostly British trio put aside some of their DIY stringencies and recently entered the studio to capture LP number four, Best Understood By Children and Animals. (It's a Stravinsky reference.) The result is an enthralling, throbbing, and incredibly percussion-driven document. Yes, the almost entirely instrumental LP has its share of crystalline and delay-triggered guitar textures (some quite good ones, it should be noted). But what will really grab you by the shirt-collar and refuse to let go is the work of the band's bottom end – bassist John Harvey and drummer Mark Glaister. These guys, on Best Understood, are firing on all cylinders.

Gordo always have embraced their peculiar place in contemporary underground rock. Past records, especially 2017's Possibility of Not, reveled in herky-jerky art-punk-isms. That's almost entirely not the modus operandi for the new record, in that it's a departure for a band that are fond of departing things. Best Understood, pensive and even sometimes gray by Gordo standards, is the band at their most thought-providing, expansive, and panoramic. Some tracks – "A Dingo Are My Discos" and the nine-minute closer, "Alcpacacino" – flirt with jam-band scope so much that they sometimes border on trance-inducing. At times, bassist Harvey's speaker-shaking presence in the mix even hints at elements of dub.

Some songs captivate. The record's excellent second track, "Markhor Parkour", which was released last year to tease out the LP's arrival, is a volatile beast. Though guitarist Laura Lee shifts between crunchy chords and more pointillistic half-notes, drummer Glaister aggressively pounds the off-kilter backbeat into your cerebellum with undeniably juicy lines. When, at the two-minute mark, Lee joins the "chorus" with a series of staggered arpeggios, it's enthralling stuff.

Five songs into the seven-song document lies the smirking-titled "Toucan Play at That Game", where Glaister again unfurls a captivating drum lead, this time backed by a driving bass. And Lee positively soars with measures that are lofty-minded but also incredibly listenable; it sits almost at the intersection between math-rock and guitar-preened power-pop. Though there's a dirgy descent four minutes into the song that is one of the record's most unexpected and unexpectedly good moments, it's not quite as gripping or destabilizing as previous Gordo works like "Anemone to Manatee".

The record is nothing if not consistent. "Snakes for the Blind", the LP's sixth song, revisits the glassy guitar and pounding drum routine – this time to slightly lesser effect. While the opener, "Dalai Llama", flirts (here and there) with the punk allegiances of the band's earlier work, it is not a theme that's carried throughout. Indeed, the closing "Alcpacacino" could've used more eruptions.

Best Understood is, indeed, best understood as a kind of experiment in tone control and scope. Gordo have proven repeatedly adept at highly colorful art-punk, complete with rhythms that would make most math-rockers swoon. On the new LP, the band members continue to display their best selves but, this time, it's an exercise in crafting an inter-compositional narrative. There are a few bumps in the road, sure, but it's a worthy and unexpected addition to the post-rock canon – and a throttling one at that.





The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.


Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.


Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.


Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.


Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.


The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.


Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.


The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.