Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Age- Everything In Between

No Age's Nouns has only grown better with time, its unique DNA pulling together strands of noise-pop, shoegazing, punk, and psychedelic dream-pop. Yet my expectations for their sophomore effort have been muted at best. Nouns seemed to breed the band out of any possible development, since every move they could make from there was already predicted on it and related singles/EP's. But Everything In Between is an incredibly apt title that helps describe what No Age have achieved. It sounds different and yet the same by exploring the cracks between the aforementioned DNA strands. In other words, everything in between, thus extending the band's sound to its next logical step, if not conclusion. It's by turns noisier, more accessible, more dreamy, more direct, and catchier than Nouns, but most importantly, it's just as good.

Two of the crucial elements of
Everything In Between's sound are the singer's expanded range and the increasing variety of guitar tones. Nouns had Randy Randall moving between the strained shouts of 'Sleeper Hold' and the more contemplative, druggy delivery of 'Things I Did When I Was Dead.' The new album adds a more studied tenor, often done in speak-singing, as heard on 'Glitter' and 'Sorts.' As for those guitar tones, there's something about the production and overall sound of Everything In Between that reminds me of Boces-era Mercury Rev and early Flaming Lips. Check the pealing buzz-saw guitars of 'Glitter' or the rushing noise-punk rave-up 'Shred And Transcend.' Moreover, the lyrics are a bit easier to pick out and understand this time out, meaning that some of the songs sound like genuine punk rock anthems crossed with noise-pop instead of strangely catchy noise-rock with words you couldn't really discern.

There isn't much unoccupied space in this music. Barring a breath-catcher like the subdued 'Common Heat',
Everything In Between is coming at you all the time. Since No Age are only a duo, the fullness and depth of sound on the album is due to either it being a studio album or the band using more loops and electronics than they did before. Most tracks on Everything seem to have at least two guitars carousing around at any given time, coated with different effects, while the drums are a deceptively natural sounding mix of a traditional drum kit with drum machines and samples. In fact, the mix of fresh modern sounds with retro throwbacks reminds me a bit of MGMT's Congratulations.

At the same time, No Age's shoegazing/dream pop side is expanded upon. The album's second half in particular harkens back to 'Keechie' and 'Impossible Bouquet' from their debut. 'Katerpillar' and 'Dusted' run with this, bringing the My Bloody Valentine comparisons I noted in my
Nouns review to fullest bloom. Had Kevin Shields ever delivered the goods when he promised a new album from MBV the last 154 times someone asked him about it, it might've sounded like the loping, modular 'Dusted' and the piano-lost-in-a-sea-of-beautiful-noise on 'Positive Amputation.'

'Chem Trails' closes the album with call-and-response vocals and a deceptively catchy melody in tow. Something about it and the other moments on
Everything In Between where extreme sonics meet poppy elements reminds me of Sisterworld by Liars. It's not difficult to imagine No Age covering tracks like 'Too Much, Too Much' or 'Here Comes All The People.' Liars, however, focus on variety and the detailed juxtaposition of sounds in their experimental world, while No Age are about sheer force and maximalism even in their quieter/dreamier reveries. But like Sisterworld did for Liars, Everything In Betweenproved that No Age had some great music left in them and places yet to explore. Whether those places were just the spaces in between the strands of their already established DNA or avenues to new things...well, we'll have to wait for the next one to find out.

5 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5

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