NO AGE, “People Helping People” (Drag City, 2022)

Fucked-over like the rest of us during the Covid pandemic, the drum and guitar pushing No Age partnership of Randy and Dean lost their original studio space of the last decade. Forced to take up space in Randy’s garage instead, the duo set out on another sonic adventure of both languid and more weighted slacker angst, pain and dismissal.

Six albums into a feted career that began sixteen years ago, No Age have lasted the course and maintained their thirst for experiment; taking that drum, guitar and vocal combo further than most. And for the first time ever the new optimistically, daresay hopeful, entitled People Helping People album is entirely recorded by the duo themselves.

They bookend it with two of the most dreamy resonating instrumental pieces: the first, ‘You’re Cooked’ envelopes and traverses cylindrical vaporous loops, reversed sucked-in guitar sonics and sparse drum pad hits, the second, ‘Andy Helping Andy’ is even more psychedelically sleepy and ghostly; a wistfully aching and hazy vision that could have easily soundtracked the recent Netflix documentary, The Andy Warhol Diaries. The former reminded me of the Liars Aaron Hemphill and his solo Nonpareil project, the latter, like a languorous, quite sad waft of remembrance. The Warhol track is actually among my favourites. Over time it gets better and better, more evocative on every play.

So, No Age continue to change the mood, waiting until well into the album’s second track, ‘Compact Flashes’, to open up the vocal valves, chase wild horses and skid, clash and clatter with sporadic free fall jazz spills, new wave sensibilities and a loosened concept of timing. It is however a continuous balance of those stirring instrumental fogs, wisps and a rolling, fanned and disjointed unique vision of scuzz, garage, punk, grunge, shoegaze and music that no ones quite been able to name convincingly yet.

If you could even call them reference points, there’s a taste of the already mentioned Liars, a guzzle fuzz of Lou Reed (‘Violence’), Iggy period Stooges and Dylan if he’d be born as a generation Xer snot rocker (‘Flutter freer’), Crispy Ambulance (in many places) and Rudolf Sosna’s scratchy guitar work on the Faust albums (‘Plastic (You Want It)’).

At times on a lo fi vibe and at other times pushing at the halcyon, No Age keep moving, keep navel gazing and keep on surprising.  Just when you get a sense of direction they change tact, plant a new seed. On waves, in bombardments and fizzled petulance the duo redefine their sound and push the envelope a little further forward down the road. 

(Dominic Valvona)

The Monolith Cocktail è un blog indipendente con base a Glasgow, Scotland (UK).
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