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Album reviews
Artist:
No Joy
Album:
Motherhood
Release year:
2020
Label:
Joyful Noise
26 August 2020 / by Alexander Ramsay (author)

 

In 1995, Creation Records released Slowdive's final record until their reunion in 2014 - Pygmalion - and a week later the band was dropped from the hugely popular British label. Where Slowdive's previous records are most prominently remembered for their cascading guitars and Rachel Goswell's ethereal singing voice, Pygmalion was an altogether different beast. Sounding closer to the ambient electronica of Seefeel and Brian Eno, it was almost entirely composed by lead songwriter Neil Halstead after most of his fellow bandmates had left in the wake of the chilly reception of their previous record Souvlaki

 

25 years later, No Joy's Jasamine White-Gluz seems to have taken a cue from Halstead and crafted Motherhood to defy nearly all expectations one could attempt to place on it. After three records that merged punk aggression and speed with noisy dreaminess, Motherhood feels as though White-Gluz - now essentially a one-woman band - took an 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach to its production and instrumentation. While there are still hints of the band's former vigor (most notably during the final minutes of 'Four'), this new release feels far spacier, looser and just plain weirder than anything the band has released thus far. 

 

 

In an interview with Brooklyn Vegan, White-Gluz named Massive Attack's Mezzanine and Primal Scream's Screamadelica among her biggest influences for Motherhood and it shows. There's hints of dance music, dub, ambient and everything in between, often on the same song. After the electronica-fused dance of her collaborations with Spacemen 3's Peter Kember (a.k.a Sonic Boom), it seems that White-Gluz is more than happy to genre hop from moment to moment which frequently lends Motherhood a sense of exciting unpredictability. The danceable psychedelia of opening track 'Birthmark' segues into the adrenaline rush of 'Dream Rats' while the low-key synthpop of 'Signal Lights' leads into weirdo art pop on 'Fish', yet White-Gluz somehow manages to keep each track consistently her own as opposed to a grab bag of influences.  

 

 

 

If Motherhood falters it is only when the ambitious collage of genres, sounds and instruments gets in its own way and keeps the album from building a steady rhythm or sense of cohesion. With most tracks being shorter than four minutes, there are moments where it becomes clear that not all ideas are created equal. 'Ageless' has the feeling of a repetitive demo track that has yet to be completed while 'Kidder' is too limp and cluttered for an album that is just demanding a punchy, forward driving finale. With these moments aside however, Motherhood in an ambitious fourth album and step forward for No Joy, one that seems that transplants them out of the tried-and-true arena of noise, tremolo guitars and raw feedback into an altogether new sonic world. 

 

Rating: 7/10

 

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The author

Alexander Ramsay

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