Music Reviews
An Object

No Age An Object

(Sub Pop) Rating - 8/10

No Age has always operated by the principle of impulse and momentum. One second they’re sweating out carefully applied dollops of noise, and the next they’re gently swaying luminous drone guitars and sun-drenched textures. They’ve staunchly kept to that formula much in the same way they strongly cling to their egalitarian political beliefs, employing the concept of brand identity with a fearless transparency that’s seldom seen from bands that are signed to major indie labels. As with any musician fortunate enough to sell their art to the masses, it seems that the duo have never appeared to be conflicted by this – if there’s demand for your record then sell it of course, but one’s quick to point the finger at those who are vocal about anti-corporate practices.

The underlying premise behind No Age’s latest, An Object, begs to question whether there’s any meaning behind the things that we use. The album art cleverly changes every punctuation mark as if emphasizing every possible impression that could arise out of consuming their record. But it’s actually much simpler in fact – the duo didn’t want to approach An Object as intermediaries to the process, questioning if it’s necessary to hand over a product once it’s gone through the mastering process. In what must’ve been a nightmare to the folks over at Sub Pop, they decided to assemble all the nuts and bolts that make a proper record, from printing, cutting, labeling and ultimately shipping you, yes you, your pre-ordered copy. It’s consonant with No Age’s politics – instead of pretending that art and commerce are mutually exclusive, why not embrace it by showing how much it means to them by adding it with that personalized seal of approval.

It’s somewhat antithetical for No Age to embrace the commercial aspect of their music with such publicized fanfare, which evidently reads as accepting the inevitable, but they’re not really applying themselves to any old punk adage, either. A fiery Randy Randall proclaims: “I don’t care what you say/I don’t work for you/Your cover’s blown” in opener No Ground, its serrated guitars burrowing into a dirty channel of pinched-out fuzz. Which ties neatly with the shimmering modified guitars of I Wont Be your Generator, which abandons verse-chorus-verse structures in favor of a tense, continual strum that begins as a backbone for Dean Spunt’s surging bass throbs before it erupts into a maelstrom of tangled dissonance. It’s their personal call to arms to the spirit of resolute conviction, maintaining the shifting dynamics of their previous records at hand, which are usually veiled in atonal bursts of noise.

In a decision that may throw their fans in for a loop, No Age is rejecting the punk aspect of their earlier efforts by stripping off power chords and clangorous rhythms. If they tested this approach with the more even-tempered Everything in Between, then An Object enfolds compressed, industrial tones over self-contained melodies by practically eschewing variation altogether. Spunt's vocals are oddly front and center in Defector/Ed, a taut, claustrophobic number that accentuates the minimalist tension of early new millenium Wire. Lock Box beats out a patterned tom-tom rhythm instead of pummeling the drum kit, its metrical ticks sustained over a throbbing guitar escalation that has the same urgency of any song found on Nouns. There’s still a visceral charge that informs these songs, only that they’re meant to highlight noise as a cleansing agent instead of throwing you headfirst into a frenzy.

All these stylistic permutations make it easy to forget that No Age are impassioned, sad-sacked romantics that are always on the verge of suffering an emotional downpour. An Impression is the closest they’ve even been to writing a ballad, using a faintly hokey, but nevertheless affecting painting metaphor that describes a transient relationship complete with a swelling string section that fits its austere mood. Running from a Go-Go dilutes the strings heard in the aforementioned by turning into a pensive, disoriented reverie that compounds his feelings of isolation with the nothingness of a long winding road, penetrating with the same reductionist dimness found in an Edward Hopper Painting [long drive/to see your eyes/I want to be on that road again/truck stop in the middle of the world/ I don’t want to be alone again]. It all culminates into the utterly beautiful A Ceiling Dreams Of A Floor, which sends a distress signal with a repeated single fuzzed note before it surges into a cascading tide of all-enveloping noise; it may very well be their personal interpretation of Vapour Trail sans its fill-based drum beat.

An Object demonstrates that No Age is willing to change their narrative, and do so in the same unpremeditated manner without disrupting their established parameters of noise. There’s hardly any doubt that punk continues to be their raison d’etre, if only in attitude and perspective, but keeping to those musical confines was never an option. At the expense of taking some calculated risks, the sequencing occasionally falters, and even discarding some of their signature dreamy soundscapes would’ve made an even more compelling listen. But No Age manages to trial something new as makers and designers, fully in command of their own artistic language. It sounds like a labor of love through and through, and its painstaking process of development only augments a desire for something exclusive. In all accounts, your satisfaction is most certainly guaranteed.