Sometimes the most profound changes pass by almost without notice: the rainfall which becomes a flood, the tumble which becomes an avalanche.
Fans of No Age have become used to enormous onward surges between albums, huge displays of creative momentum. Yet the duo’s new album, ‘An Object’, isn’t like that: the changes are there, for sure, but the leaps are more assured, more refined.
“I mean, I never wanted to do something which had never been done before,” explains Randy Randall. “I think if you’re new to something then that’s part of the charm, the fascination. Discovering the world for yourself.”
Rather, the guitarist favours something more gradual, attached to a sense of history. “I don’t discount what’s come before or what’s come after, but I hope that my time here amounts to more than just me,” he says. “I don’t have to put down the past of rock ‘n’ roll, or electronic, or popular music. I get to do well with what I enjoy, which is sort of this No Age area.
“I think this new record is sort of pushing things forward: it’s an evolution, but it’s not flushing our past down the toilet. It’s not like that; it’s a continuation. If you liked our stuff in the past then hopefully you’ll like this. At the same time, we’re on this journey and I don’t think we could’ve made this record four years ago. I hope in four years we won’t make the same record. I hope it’s continually changing.”
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No Age, 'C'mon Stimmung', from 'An Object'
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‘An Object’ is an engineer’s record, one marked by mic choices and equipment layout. Drummer Dean Spunt became obsessed with de-constructing the notion of his kit, attaching contact mics to all manner of make-shift percussive instruments.
“He would stick the contact mics on the drums or on his legs or on a piece of metal, and then we would run those contact mics through large bass amplifiers and speakers,” Randall explains. “We mic’d the sound of the speaker moving. Contact microphones are like thin pieces of metal with two leads attached to it; they’re meant to be used softly, they’re sort of fragile. They’re not meant to be thrown into things and used as percussion. We went through quite a lot. We found a guy who sold them online and bought them by in gross. We just kind of destroyed them.”
Built up through lengthy jams, ‘An Object’ is less-structured than previous collections – favouring improvisation over strict songwriting – and yet also more precise. Each step is measured, each decision one that was heavily debated during the recording process.
“We’d record for a week and then spend another week listening back, reviewing and editing and seeing what was really the best part,” Randall says. “When you’re in the middle of it, it can be difficult to know what’s good and what isn’t. You have to have that creative avenue open. Sometimes good stuff comes out and sometimes not-so-good stuff comes out. We spent three months writing and recording in this way, like a week on and then a week reviewing.”
Evolving from the binary dynamic which governs No Age, ‘An Object’ is both a humorously prosaic title and an oblique pun: both Randall and Spunt would object to each other’s choices. A uniquely democratic experience, the album feels like it occupies a definitive space – like pioneers mapping the Western rush of the United States, or labourers completing a skyscraper. An oft-quoted idea in reviews, it’s a metaphor the band themselves use albeit in rather altered, sculpted form.
“I see it more as a journey, a lot of the songs, more than just a space,” Randall insists. “I think there’s an element of time and movement. I think there’s a lot of physical terminology in the arranging and composing of songs, like that.”
Yet in a more direct manner, ‘An Object’ is also dominated by multi-layered conversation: between percussion and melody, noise and songcraft, Spunt and Randall. “It’s like a conversation with yourself. It starts with an idea which I’ll come back to a week later. How do you finish this sentence? Something I said a week ago but didn’t really have an end. Just a rough scribble, a sketch, a doodle – you have to come back a week later and see how to finish it.”
Ultimately, though, ‘An Object’ is unfinished. The name itself is both a definitive statement and a space to be filled, with fans left to wonder which object No Age are even referring to. This openness is an idea which has run through the band’s discography, with the guitarist readily admitting to their intentions.
“I do feel that it’s that kind of album and we’re that kind of band. You kind of have to decipher it for yourself. Making it is fun and there’s a lot of energy put into the music, but it’s really up to the listener to finish the creative process for themselves.”
Finishing, Randall says that the onus now rests you, their fans. “It was intentionally designed to not quite be finished yet, and there’s a difference between an active listener and a passive listener, to really enjoy that music, I think. So there’s a little bit of that, for us, in this record. There’s a lot of restraint, on my part, as a guitar player, whereas in the past I would throw the kitchen sink, everything I had at a track. This one was more about peeling that away, refining it. Just sort of what’s needed to convey a feeling.”
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Words: Robin Murray
'An Object' is released via Sub Pop on August 19th and reviewed HERE.
Find No Age online HERE.
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