No Joy, So Pitted and Versing at the Sunset, Seattle | 10 June 2015
There’s a fine line to getting the ratio of guitar squall to ethereal vocals in the shoegaze genre just right.Up to this point No Joy had struggled to do it. On their third record they seem to have finally got it. More Faithful is their best record. It was produced by Jorge Elbrecht who is the guy behind Violens, Lansing-Drieden and has worked with Ariel Pink (He also produced their previous album to lesser effect). His M.O. is slick, well produced records that verge on the sterile. Montreal’s No Joy on the other hand like to let it bleed in the sense of blistering guitars that feedback so much that you struggle to make out the melodies. More Faithful is just the right blend of guitar, voice and studio gadgetry. It allows you to hear that No Joy write some pretty good songs. On some songs they barely use distortion or loudness opting instead to go in more dreampop route. This new direction is a good route and puts them into Cocteau Twins, Curve and A Sunny Day In Glasgow territory.
The band really seem like they’ve emerged as confident and competent shoegazers, so I was excited to see them play expecting them bring the dreamier aspects of their sound out live. What I got was something else entirely. No Joy played a set of white noise that made me wonder if it was not an entirely different band that recorded More Faithful. Obviously the new album is a studio record that the band either haven’t figured out how to play live or don’t want to recreate live. Each song essentially sounded the same. They would hit a couple buttons on their playback contraption to start the synth-based backing track from the studio and then they would blast white noise guitar feedback over it while singer Laura Lloyd apparently sang. I watched her mouth the words but rarely could I actually hear her voice. I think I recognized one song, but it was like seeing it through blast goggles. A truly disappointing performance that provided no joy.
Thankfully the opening acts were better. Seattle’s So Pitted sound like part OC surf punks and part hard core post-holocaust survivors. They make loud primal blasts of sound that you can nod your head to. The drummer and guitarist switch instruments and vocal duties. Their final song featured a guitar freak out that took place under the cover of one of those foil survivor blankets as if he had just been melted by the raygun of some malevolent outer space being. Brilliant!
Opening the night were Versing who were new to me, but I instantly liked their Swell Maps and Wire (also Seam and Pavement) inspired songs. It was the right combination of dissonant chords and plaintive vocals. I’m looking forward to hearing more from these guys in the future. They said that they’ve just finished recording and EP, in the meantime they have a demo and a KEXP session up on their Soundcloud page.