It’s said that trends in fashion always make a comeback, and with genres of music it’s not all that different. Particularly in recent years, a resurgence of late ‘80s spaced-out British niche genre shoegaze has become increasingly prevalent for up and coming aficionados of delay pedals and roaring drones. But to do revamped shoegaze well — that’s where the divide lies between the pretenders and the true revivalists.
Enter three-piece No Joy, firmly grasping the hazy appeal of shoegaze and repackaging the genre with an ample dose of contemporary bravado. Leaning more toward the aesthetic of the less popular LUSH as opposed to shoegazing favorites My Bloody Valentine, the classic sound of distorted guitars garners a variety of other layers with No Joy, including vocal loops and electronic drums.
With their latest EP Negaverse, the emphasis on no instrument in particular truly becomes the centerpiece. Shifting from traditional shoegaze’s focus on the not-sounds that can be procured from noodling around with guitars and delay pedals, instead the EP focuses on two drumlines, piano and vocals and the vocals as instruments themselves. Negaverse makes for a refreshing — albeit evocative — listen, a duality that is difficult to create.
Fuzzy opener “Junior” features muted female vocals lilted over shredded layers of Sonic Youth-esque distortion. The traditional shoegaze “wall of sound” topples over with “VHFD,” crumbling with chilling drones and muddled vocal loops that flirt with both distance and despair. “Shame Cave” sits a bit bland at first, then rapidly transforms into an electric break from the noise, driven primarily by electronic drums. Icy piano loops in the EP’s standout track “Yang Sanpanku” puncture with the same intensity as an unprecedented goodbye, pained, unfeeling and distant all the same. Growling, delay pedal-laden guitars in “Smiley Face” and space age-era drones provide an undeniable comparison to shoegaze legends Slowdive, nostalgic and burning.
The Montreal trio leaves you with an insatiable craving for more. Sadly this wonderful, fleeting nugget of shoegaze revival is a mere five tracks. No Joy doesn’t leave you joyless, but a bit unfulfilled. Once you’ve been given a taste, it becomes hard to believe there isn’t more to be enjoyed.