No World

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Andrew and Daniel Aged's first release for 4AD was a 2011 EP that offered three tracks of shuddering, shale-strength neo-new jack swing. On their first album, they display a deeper understanding of contemporary R&B but reduce and smooth their sound to wispy mood pieces. Much of No World is so slight, tentative, and ill-defined that it easily slips into pleasant background listening for intimate encounters and soul searching. It never eclipses the deep and quiet Maxwell album cuts it seems to emulate. The limited if appealing vocals seldom break whisper level, sometimes diaphanous to the extent of requiring the lyric booklet for understanding. A handful of the songs, however, are superbly shaped, dynamic, and somewhat muscular. "The Place" and "5 Days" are similarly churning lullabies with sharp hooks, where Inc.'s yearning aches -- otherwise vaguely suggested -- penetrate with reflections like "I know I have to try to be my best/Because that is all he ever wants." Highlight "Trust (Hell Below)" is the only instance where they approach the energy level of the EP, but even that one doesn't aspire to jam status, too casual in its swing to work up a sweat. Despite its shortcomings, there's some definite promise. The Aged brothers, who have worked with Raphael Saadiq and Cee Lo Green, among others, clearly know their stuff -- like they study and value it rather than pay it mere lip service -- and are not playacting.

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