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No Age
An Object Andrew Spragg , August 21st, 2013 06:32

"How times have changed", Dean Allen Spunt sings on 'Disaffected/Ed', somewhere around the mid-point of No Age's fourth full-length, An Object. In some ways he is right - a lot has changed since the band's 2007 debut Weirdo Rippers, though it seems largely the external world that has done so. To a casual listener No Age's formula, lo-fi punk tinged with experimental flourishes, has remained determinedly unmodified.

With a little attention, there is a lot to be admired of the LA-based two piece. True, they may not oscillate in style as much as contemporaries such as Liars, but beneath the consistent reliance on conventional verse-chorus, loud-quiet structures lies a desire to develop elements of their sound and art into strange permutations and variations. 'Circling With Dizzy', with its weird, waspish guitars, offset against a grumbling bass fart in the right channel, is indicative of just how strange No Age can get. Certainly, the production of An Object demonstrates the band's commitment to their music as artistic endeavour, with the group assembling the first 10,000 copies of the album by hand themselves. It's an admirable way to resist the contemporary tendency to detach music from a physical artefact, and highlights a process that for most consumers remains invisible, or even archaic. Put more plainly, it makes streaming An Object off Spotify seem a pretty lacklustre substitute to actually buying the record.

The publicity for the record repeatedly flags the band's "new approach" – Spunt's drum kit has been supplemented with contact mics and an assortment of non-conventional percussion (metal, lumber and prepared speakers). The listener might be hard pressed to locate them in the mix to begin with, though this does lend the album a pleasurable quality in discovering the presence of these things on repeat encounters. The crack of something like broken glass lends 'Running From A-Go-Go' a remorseful quality, particularly fitting for its lyrical preoccupation with truck-stop solitude. This tendency not to foreground their sound experiments indicates the band's level of self-assurance - there's no requirement to waggle a token avant-garde gesture in the listener's face, in the manner that some guitar bands are prone to do. Instead No Age are content to let their approach mutate as instinct dictates, rather than throw out the whole blueprint each time.

Across the 11 tracks that comprise An Object, there is a compelling tension between conventional song structure and the sound used to deliver them. 'Lock Box' could be a surf-rock anthem or even a Weezer b-side, except that its narrow frequency range renders it so lo-fi it gains a warped, nasal dimension. The scuzzy bossa nova of 'An Impression' captures a general sense of melancholy, augmented beautifully with a violin that swims hazily past in the mix. There may be no dramatic leaps in style from No Age, yet there also doesn't seem to be any requirement for them. An Object is the refining of a formula that remains open to play and experiment, without adopting a slash-and-burn policy to all previous outings. In short, No Age's strength lies in a determination to stay weirdly the same, even while they are pushing their sound through constant incremental change.