No Joy

More Faithful

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At first, shoegaze-steeped indie quartet No Joy come across as your dyed-in-the wool revival act. Their early sounds approached bent dream pop guitars in dark colors and vast, echoing tones, and 2013's Wait to Pleasure saw them branching out somewhat and including ethereal influences of the early 4AD catalog in with their warped pop palette. At first, third album More Faithful seems like another incremental progression or re-polishing of the band's gauze-wrapped approach to pop. Album-opener "Remember Nothing" has the same snare stabs, damaged guitar frequencies, and floating clouds of delay-dripping vocals as early My Bloody Valentine, and "Everything New" revisits the airy Cocteau Twins-styled vocals that first came into focus on Wait to Pleasure. While the songs are pleasantly dreamy, More Faithful's best moments and No Joy's astonishing leaps forward as a band with this album are revealed only through listening closely. What sounds like a blurry web of distorted guitars actually reveals itself as a detailed web of acoustic instruments and layers of multiple guitar tracks in various arrays of tones and timbers. The glowing, nearly tropical tones of "Moon in My Mouth" are where these changes become more visible. Apart from the tastefully understated nature of the record's expanded instrumentation, equally hidden in its layers are unexpected production moves from producer Jorge Elbrecht. Half-speed percussion creeps its way into a few songs, and the entire mix of "Hollywood Teeth" begins to slow and warp near the middle, adding a nightmarish turn to an otherwise sweet and buzzy dreamscape. Icy keyboards begin the stoic "Burial in Twos," and distorted vocals melt into a sea of other brittle, overdriven tones on "Corpo Daemon," both songs coming away a bit more gothic and brooding for these production choices. While the shifts in sound are subtle, the album as a whole moves slowly through a field of extreme sounds with a deceptive agility. More Faithful is a masterpiece for headphones, and more enjoyable with every listen at high, open air volumes, easily offering the best songwriting and aural presentation the band has mustered yet.

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