Under the No Sky

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In the three years since their second LP, much has changed for Berlin-based art pop band Super700. Once a sprawling seven-piece attack of dark, angular alt-rock, the band has now slimmed down to a subtler and ultimately more engaging quartet with German-Albanian singer Ibadet Ramadani no longer sharing vocal duties with her two sisters. The result of their reconstruction is the sublimely rendered Under the No Sky, a record brimming with vivid fall colors and filtered through a newfound smoky patina, courtesy of producer (and band bassist) Michael Haves. While they may now be painting with a palette of gentler stuff, Super700’s focused intensity is still apparent in the glorious opener “21st Century Girl,” with its menacing guitar work, sultry vocals, and weirdly anthemic kazoo solo. Odd and dissonant moments can be heard throughout the album but stand-out tracks like the skittering, dreamy single “Life with Grace” and the dusty “Old Moon” are more indicative of the band’s new direction. Strings and pianos have replaced the processed synths of their earlier work and anchoring it all is the lovely, haunting voice of Ramadani, at times broken and world-weary but with the graceful reassurance of a singer who has nothing more to prove. Her quiet, calm delivery on the all-acoustic album-closer “Queen of in Between” manages to convey both a sad sweetness and a steadfast resolve as she and Haves unexpectedly break into a quirky vocal chorus of punctuated “wa-wa”’s. It’s like a ray of sun invading a moody afternoon and just as quickly, it departs. Under the No Sky is the sound of a veteran band with some road under their wheels and it shows in their attention to their craft.