Album Review: NO CEREMONY/// – NO CEREMONY///

By on Wednesday, 4th September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

No Ceremony album coverThere seems to always be a veiled edge of mystery from every act that comes out of Manchester these days. Everyone from that town seems to be so scared of being pigeonholed by the ghosts of the city’s past and want nothing to do with New Order, the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays or Oasis. Electronic trio NO CEREMONY/// are no exception, having wowed festival and gig crowds over the last 2 years and setting themselves apart with their brand of dance music starring bombastic piano, stretched synths and pounding percussion.

But virtually nothing is known about them and even I didn’t know what they looked like until I caught them on day 2 of this year’s Liverpool Sound City. This week, the band releases their highly anticipated, self-titled debut long player. On their own label even, called NOC///. I should probably state here at the start that in case it is not obvious, I am not shouting throughout this review but all the song titles on this album, just like the band’s name itself, are in all caps. Also, yes, I am an editor and I do know where to put spaces, but all the song titles on this album are words smushed together. Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Track 2 ‘FEELSOLOW’ is the best dance introduction to this band (or so I thought), having become a fan favourite of their live shows as of late. It’s also a good example of what this band does well: driving, pulsating, dark dance music equally appropriate for ravers and shoegazers that happen to enjoy dancing. If you’re not a fan of vocals being manipulated, the singing on here could be grating. But in general, if you’re into dance, you understand that vocals – or even understanding them most of the time – is secondary. It’s how the track makes you feel as it courses through your veins and through your body. (However, if you were paying attention, the lyrics of it are pretty good, touching on the heartbreak of asking “is it wrong to make you love me?” and desolate repeats of “you know my heart is gone / you know my faith is gone / I’ll be waiting, I’ll be waiting / nothing comes”. Yes, dance music can be emotional when done right.)

I bring up previously released ‘FEELSOLOW’ for the newbies. Chances are if you’re a dance fan and you’ve done any sort of following of this band from before they headlined their first headline show in Salford in the summer of 2012, you’ve probably heard many of these songs already online and probably sought them out at a festival. So to me, it’s quite interesting they decided to tap Joey Santiago of Pixies and Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow as collaborators on ‘HEARTBREAKER’ and ‘AWAYFROMHERE’, respectively. Santiago provides admirable guitar lines that vie for attention with the vocals and in some cases, surpass them. McMorrow’s contribution to ‘AWAYFROMHERE’ is a soulful yet occasionally painful sounding falsetto that makes the song stick out like a sore thumb from the album overall. So Santiago 1: McMorrow 0.

What I find rather unusual here is that the band – only known to us by their first names of James, Kelly and Victoria – choose to go with more slower numbers than what might expect to hear at a rave. In that respect, the album comes across more like something the xx (or even James Blake, minus the annoying wubs and handclaps) would be produced and not as heavy beat-wise as I would have presumed. Or would liked for a dance album for that matter. I can appreciate the initial synth beats from the intro of ‘HOLDONME’ as it goes onward to about the 1-minute mark are light as a feather. I’m not a fan of words put through a vocoder (I’m talking to you, Kanye), so I’m not feeling the vocals on this track, but I can forgive based on how the tune steadily morphs into something bigger and bolder, culminating in ordered chaos into the third minute.

Conversely though, I find ‘HURTLOVE’ and ‘WARSONGS’ as missteps, lurching along languidly like weird bookends between faster paced, more interesting numbers. At least ‘PARTOFME’, which admittedly is a slow jam, brings attention to itself with percussion that won’t be denied. And then the payoff comes just after minute 2, as the song opens up and bursts like fireworks. No wonder it’s being released as their next single, dropping on the 14th of October. (Watch the promo video, just released in August, below.) So all is not lost.

Clocking in at barely a half-hour (32 minutes if you want to be picky about it), ‘NO CEREMONY///’ is a gentle electronic beast. Sadly, if you want to dance, this isn’t your record. If you’d rather have something to wrap your ears around to expand your mind though, this might just be the ticket.

6/10

The self-titled debut album from NO CEREMONY/// is out now on the band’s own label NOC///.

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4 Responses

12:03 pm
4th September 2013

New post: Album Review: NO CEREMONY/// @NOCEREMONY___ – NO CEREMONY///: http://t.co/3UrpdVyEY1

3:15 pm
4th September 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Album Review: NO CEREMONY/// @NOCEREMONY___ – NO CEREMONY///: http://t.co/3UrpdVyEY1

10:59 am
6th September 2013

Album Review: NO CEREMONY/// – NO CEREMONY/// http://t.co/dDLVTtrpAp via @tgtf they will be live @nsoundandvision on Thursday 10 October

[…] ‘AWAYFROMHERE’, a track from their self-titled debut released in September, Manchester’s electro three-piece NO CEREMONY/// collaborated with […]

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