Dis­tor­tion and melodic noise

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - — Randall Roberts

No Age

“Ev­ery­thing in Be­tween”

Sub Pop

★★★

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.

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