Distortion and melodic noise
“Everything in Between”
A mass of hiss floats through No Age’s “Everything in Between” like a cold front moving across a satellite image. At times it’s barely there, this sibilance, eclipsed by Dean Spunt’s hard bass drum and pierced snare snaps, and Randy Randall’s distorted guitar chords. But the sonic friction always makes an appearance, adding sandpaper grit or an ominous hum, and even when silence does seem to arrive, as on the pretty acoustic song “Common Heat,” noise whispers in the distance.
The follow-up to their acclaimed 2008 album “Nouns,” “Everything in Between” is the L.A. duo’s second studio album (“Weirdo Rippers,” from 2007, collected early singles), and finds them further refining their marriage of distorted punk, downtown noise, melodic flourish and that hiss. Across 13 songs, No Age moves from slow to fast, hard to pretty, ditty to dirge.
The one constant, though, is Spunt’s monochromatic voice, which connects the various moods and turns them the same shade of gray. He seldom screams, seldom conveys much emotion at all, instead delivering conversational part-spoken, part-sung lyrics. Whether buried deep in the mix, as on “Dusted,” or relatively up high, as on the wonderful “Valley Hum,” untethered words and ideas drift through but minus the necessary vocal heft.
This absence is frustrating, because it stands in stark contrast to the music that surrounds it, which is varied, colorful and consistently surprising.