Californian duo mix squalls of escalating distortion and ambiguous drifts of electronic noise on the south coast
Normally used to cordon off baying audiences, a solitary metal gate has been abandoned, left propped up against one corner of the venue and No Age’s anarchic and effortlessly cool guitarist Randy Randall can’t seem to get its random placement off his mind. Its relevance and his confusion over its general purpose takes up most of his admittedly brief conversations with the spartan crowd.
For some reason, be it the cold drizzly UK weather or the sometimes confrontational nature of their early ’80s college rock indebted music, tonight’s show by the Californian twosome is criminally under attended. What should have been a packed hall is a handful of disciples. Touring in support of their People Helping People album, which came out to great reviews last year, it must be a disappointment for the band financially that not many folk turned out tonight, but for those of us who did brave it, it’s a chance to get up close and personal with the duo.
Half of their set is comprised of surprisingly ambiguous drifts of electronic noise, if you closed your eyes and pictured Beaches and Canyons era Black Dice mischievously attempting to cover Fleetwood Mac’s cumbersome Albatross you’d come pretty close to what they achieve, swelling currents of crackling sound that gently break around you. The other 50 percent is gloriously blaring squalls of escalating distortion that don’t so much break gently around you, as smash themselves over your head.
Talking of Black Dice, Randall and drummer Dean Spunt cheerfully reminisce about their last time playing in Brighton, way back when, performing with the band Male Bonding as part of a showcase for local icons Fatcat records. That label famously put out that Black Dice record and were responsible for the Weirdo Rippers comp which was many people’s first introduction to No Age.
It’s a sobering thought that the band have been going for nearly 20 years now. Six albums and countless EPs down the line, they have ridden the wave of critical acclaim that befell them early on in their Smell days and emerged on the other side, once again playing to smaller, more intimate audiences in venues where their profoundly stimulating and overlapping sound fills the air.