So, I’ve been a bit lax with this blog, specifically in terms of delivering what I promised, which is incisive criticism and opinion on the best and worst new music. It always being easier to criticise than praise, I thought I’d start with a challenge and discuss No Art‘s new EP, while at the same time introducing you to a new regular column, Hearing Aid, whose purpose is to highlight the best new music and new artist, as I see fit of course.
Titled Exotica, No Art display characteristic maturity on the recording, every song resonating with a legitimacy and sense of honesty that other bands of their same age and position fail to even approach. At once both polished and lo-fi, the EP, as with most of No Art’s music recalls a sense of nostalgia without falling into the trap of rehashing cliches and references from a bygone era. While some could argue that their post-rock guitars do at times almost cross the line, for every instance of traditional building guitar thrashing their is a subtle and stunning passage that partners with it.
The only fault with the EP is that at times it gets a bit much, a bit too intense but somehow not intense enough. Everything is so perfectly in place and the songs move masterfully from the quiet to the epic and from song to song that it at times has the feeling of a prog album. And while I’ll be the first man to jump to the defense of prog, the band lack both the stupid range of instrumentation and self indulgent instrumental playing style that makes it work when say Emerson Lake and Palmer or Genesis do it. These moments are rare, popping up once or twice across the whole five songs, but the EP would’ve been stronger had they kept these passages on a tighter leash, or let them loose completely.
Where the EP really succeeds though is in how well it captures the energy of the band playing live. From the very first time I saw the band play back in 2009, they struck me as incredibly powerful performers. They manage to do as a three piece what so many five piece indie bands couldn’t even if they doubled their members. The EP, while obviously limited in the respect that you can only listen to it and can’t watch or feel it, still carries the authenticity that is so central to what make the band special, Pat Santamaria (Lost Valentinos) having done a great job as producer, his history with the band shining through in his honest, minimal and nuanced approach. The recording actually sounds like three people playing in a room together, rather than a bunch of people sitting behind a computer screen pulling tracks around and recording overdubs, and it does this without losing any quality or (too much) clarity, much in the same way The Dirty Three’s Ocean Songs manages the same feat. It’s faults give it charm, where the perfection of other recordings sound inhuman.
So many of the bands getting around the, in lack of a better term, ‘indie scene’ these days lack any real grit under their nails. They all sound like dressed up teenagers desperately trying to feel pain and anguish while living a life of apathy and indulgence, whose hollow music reflects their empty dreams and ambitions. These bands, and there are far too many to even beggar remembering let alone naming feel like tufts of fairy floss, melting the moment they touch your tongue and leaving nothing but a sickly sweet film in your mouth. They’re weightless and inconsequential. No Art however have gravity, and it’s this gravity that has seen them draw people into their orbit, not the pedophile promise of a sugary treat.