Saturday, 19 October 2013
No Age @ Jericho Tavern, Oxford
In keeping with the tradition of punk, experimental L.A. noise rock duo NO AGE are a band that that work best in small, sweaty places. So when I heard they were playing in a tiny room above a pub round the corner, I knew I had to see them. The fact that the pokey room was packed is testament to D.I.Y. band conduct, having cultivated an audience that seeks them out, wherever they might be and however little advertisement they put out. ( Oddly, there was no notice outside the pub whatsoever.) This mutual relationship is something that the band are more than aware of. ‘This is our first time playing to you in Oxford’ said drummer Dean Spunt, adding jokily, ‘and it’s also the first time you’ve seen us playing in Oxford.’
In true punk tradition, this event was people and place coming together seamlessly. Old setlists with the forgotten songs of anonymous bands were plastered on the walls. The people drinking in the pub downstairs had no idea what the almighty noise from above them was. And that’s just what it was. Noise at its most essential, vital, and pounding. Blocks of noise, vibration. This was music that you felt, made with a deliberation and feeling that overwhelmed sense. For those unacquainted with their music, the fundamental thing to understand is their dedication to dynamics. The attention they pay to ‘loud’ is turned equally to quiet and soft, often turning the tail ends of songs and the gaps in between songs into quasi-ambient soundscapes. Dean Spunt hacks at his drums, almost willing them to split and create new sounds. Randy Randall plays the guitar, but the sound that comes out of the guitar isn’t a tone. It isn’t melodic. It is purely rhythmic, instinctual. His vast sprawl of pedals are constantly nudged and twisted, morphing the sounds mid song, between songs, and after songs. In their musical utopia, virtuosity loses all importance.
All that mattered in that space was a transferral of air, a joined movement. Words were sung, but were smothered, defying intelligibility. Looking at its component parts, this music is cold, repetitive, jarring and incongruous. But, altogether, the friction between these elements creates a genuine warmth, and demanded the entire attention of the audience, if it needed to be demanded in the first place. Set standouts included a powerful rendition of their most visceral, catchy song ‘Fever Dreaming’ and cuts off their new album, An Object, but it didn’t really matter what songs they played at this point. They could’ve improvised the whole set and wouldn’t have lost any momentum. If you get the chance, we urge you to see them, but be prepared for A LOT of noise.