No Energy

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Pacific Northwestern punks Unwound burned brightly for a time throughout the early '90s and into the beginning of the 2000s. Starting from roots at damp basement shows in their hometown of Olympia, Washington, the trio grew consistently, touring and recording more and more with each passing year, developing a sound that stirred together Justin Trosper's sometimes burning and angular, sometimes heavenly guitar lines and glib vocals, screamed and muttered; Sara Lund's uniquely fluid drumming style; and Vern Rumsey's anchor of buzzsaw bass. Just over a decade after the band's 2002 breakup, reissue mavens the Numero Group began a series of box set releases, chronicling Unwound's various eras. The third set in the series comes in the form of No Energy, focusing on the stretch of the mid-'90s that found the band turning away from its roots in visceral, angsty post-punk and growing incrementally more experimental in both recording techniques and instrumentation. The collection gathers together 1995's The Future of What and 1996's Repetition as well as various extra tunes from the same period. These records were still characterized largely by blasts of toothy, churning post-punk that sometimes flirted with melody. "Petals Like Bricks," "Corpse Pose," and "Natural Disasters" all come closer to being catchy than anything before them, but amid these grainy punk tunes, the band was slowly integrating experiments with tape delays, noise, and stylistic detours into dubby rhythms and free-floating sonics. The Future of What is broken up with interludes of soft organ and harsh noise before ending in a storm of droning feedback for the last three minutes of "Swan," and Repetition takes things even further with the full-on dub-influenced instrumental "Sensible," noisy tape experiments, and a skronky free-form freakout at the end of "Go to Dallas and Take a Left," complete with saxophone and keyboard noodling. While ample amounts of freely floating feedback had always been a calling card for Unwound, these albums set the scene for the more eclectic direction they were moving toward and would explore fully on their final studio albums. No Energy is filled out with a few drastically different alternate versions of several tunes, as well as previously unreleased outtakes like "Seen Not Heard." Still rooted firmly in the guitar-based post-punk sound of their earlier albums, No Energy sees Unwound growing restless and slowly trying on new approaches. At this point they were a constantly touring and recording machine, accelerating the rate of their exploration of new ideas, which would fully come into view by the time of 1998's Challenge for a Civilized Society. As they stood, however, Unwound were at the zenith of their first phase of creativity at this time, having come into their own and even grown so quickly comfortable with their trademark sounds that they couldn't wait to branch out into something new.

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