Music Reviews
Ghost Blonde

No Joy Ghost Blonde

(Mexican Summer) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

No matter which way you look at it, there’s a palpable deficiency with noise bands of late. Implementing reverb-drenched guitar noise into practice sounds like a commendable exercise, but buying a set of delay pedals just isn’t enough. As bands keep pushing the limits of droning reverb to extraneous levels, these cacophonous streams of bliss quickly dissipate into insubstantial vapor. There seems to be a divide between those who expertly turn it into an artful skill without saying much (A Place to Bury Strangers, Weekend), those who use it as merely a mechanism to convey personal strife (No Age, Times New Viking), and those who superficially skuzz on auto-pilot while injecting some humor and self mockery (Eat Skull, Tyvek). 

No Joy arrive late in the game but almost instantly demand your attention. While many bands rely on constantly hammering a gimmick or keeping true to a design that comes from a local scene, the Canadian/Los Angeles band is more interested in sticking to compositional melody than shitting a maelstrom of chord gaze. Main songwriters Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd are disinterested in replicating a particular inspiration or a sacred sound, and neither do they discard their foundation as one that has been applied so many times before. The powerful noise pop No Joy creates lends itself to open interpretation – it is nurtured from an emotional core, inviting us to a world that balances ruthless energy with sinister imagery.

Even so, Ghost Blonde is chock full of succulent melodious chord structures and lengthened jams that always pay off at just the right moment. No Joy are not ashamed of inhabiting the spirit of many well renowned heavy-hitters: Loveless, Psychocandy, Pod, Sister, and Mezcal Head. They’re in love with the music they’ve adopted, honoring their precursors by withstanding a thoroughly cohesive sound. Throughout, a comprehensible crossbreed of genres pervades – the bouncy mid-tempo pop of Still has My Bloody Valentine’s hazy vocal harmonies and Sonic Youth’s guitar scratches. Just like their distant musical cousins Catherine Wheel, they struggle at maintaining a single identity – a track like Heedless may obviously hint at shoegaze, but its shuddering sonics and straightforward guitar riffs simmer like a classic alternative production. 

Ghost Blonde puts its fingers all over many classic 80’s/90’s recordings, cleverly adopting from these to prepare their own rollicking feast. The best moments are the ones that hint at what No Joy could turn into when they start discovering their true voice. The transition between Hawaii and Indigo Child serves as a template for their wide-ranging sensibilities – the former recalls Catholic Block on steroids, charging at high speed until the latter maintains a slower tempo, which actually bonds with doom metal’s pessimistic atmosphere. But these ladies don’t growl – White-Gluz and Lloyd’s thin harmonies are adequate enough to add an extra dimension to a hazy ballad and playful enough to alter between a repeated sing-along verse to a short monologue when they feel like it.

For such an enticing listen, it’s disappointing how last track Ghost Blonde, with its endless chord repetition and timorous dream pop, ends anti-climatic. Set aside that fallback and what you have is free-form experimentalism of the finest form. At first listen, No Joy may cap their sound with a not-so-revelatory wall of distortion. As you untangle all those multiple sounds, it becomes clear how it took some serious decision-making to create such an audacious release. Ghost Blonde brings a glimmer of hope to those who feel that noise has remained stagnant, past overdue its last hurrah. As these set of songs pinpoints, there’s still plenty to discover in a genre that has always shown itself as deviously minimal.