Rating: 8.5 / Format: 12" EP / Label: Sub Pop
Following up the success of last year’s Nouns must have been a daunting task. Randy Randall and Dean Spunt refocused the wayward experimentalism of their EPs into a tight avant-noise manifesto that didn’t skimp on melody, providing you were willing to scratch at the layers of scuzz to get to it. And plenty were – Sub Pop must have known they were onto a good thing when the feverish hyperbole from Pitchfork et al turned out to be unusually well founded.
The band’s new EP, Losing Feeling, continues to chip away into the harder textures, balancing the shoegaze density of debut Weirdo Rippers with Nouns’ punk edge. It’s especially easy to isolate strands of DNA from the first album on the EP‘s opening track; swells of distortion trigger memories of the no-fi dream pop of ‘Every Artist Needs a Tragedy’ or ‘I Wanna Sleep‘. The moment when the cresting arpeggios breaks and a fuzzed out riff takes its place is something curiously magical. Recalling My Bloody Valentine as much as any of their lo-fi peers back at LA’s Smell Club, it’s No Age’s finest track to date, and no amount of lamenting – as the naysayers surely will – the sudden presence of, well, production, can change this.
While ‘Genie’ is more modest, it’s no less beautiful. An overdriven guitar peels from a bank of reverb, but there’s an intimacy at play heightened by Randall’s weathered vocals; chiming guitar breaking away from the melody and threatening to overshadow the whole track before being reigned back in as testament to the band’s newfound restraint.
It’s this restraint that prefigures perhaps the biggest stylistic departure. ‘Aim at the Airport’ follows up on No Age’s promise of becoming more sample and loop-driven, its fragile static reminiscent of the rolling ambience of Tim Hecker. You can practically hear the blog band prejudices melt away with every dissipating loop; every crackle of found sound. It’s almost slightly disappointing to return to the flailing punk of ‘You’re a Target‘, but the crashing percussion and unashamed scree is the perfect counterpoint to the poppy melody. It is to their credit that the band have managed to develop their sound, leaving imitators crying into their guitar pedals, without sounding like anyone but No Age. Following up Nouns, it turns out, was easy.