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No Joy, ‘Wait to Pleasure’ – Album Review

The old adage that you need to see a band live to “get” them is as true about No Joy as it is about countless others, but it’s worth noting how unexpected their performances are when viewed through a traditional shoegaze lens.

The genre is known to create mind-bending experiences of sensory-overload, but its name stems from the tendency of associated acts to fixate on their effects pedals rather than impose their personalities on the crowd. Bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush and Catherine Wheel would essentially let the music be the focus, and if you’ve experienced the “Holocaust section” of MBV’s ‘You Make Me Realize,’ you’ve been to the limits of what music being the focus can entail.

No Joy, though, are a captivating, evocative and energetic live band, with songs seemingly pulled straight from the Thames Valley and not from the duo’s home of Montreal. But Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd, along with drummer Garland Hastings, differentiate themselves from their influences in far more significant ways than energetic concerts. No Joy’s sophomore LP, ‘Wait to Pleasure,’ still sounds right at home within shoegaze’s historical sonic walls, but faced with the rough task of releasing a record just a couple months after a new My Bloody Valentine album, No Joy successfully raise their game to avoid also-ran status.

Showcasing No Joy’s dark-wave sensibilities, the falsely vast ‘Lizard Kids’ and ‘Slug Night’ use misdirection from huge guitar blasts to smother rather than ignite. Expansive claustrophobia could easily seem unpleasant, but the group skillfully balances beauty and chaos, making uneasiness interesting enough that it’s actually attractive. But, you know, the band is called No Joy. You sign an unspoken contract simply by engaging a group with that name.

The tension and paranoia that form the foundation of this album don’t stem from a one-note delivery, and they serve as foils for the bits of brightness, which work best in moderation, each as essential for the listening experience as water or air is to life. The early moments of the album find ‘E’ approaching transcendental heights, only to be roped in before it can reach a satisfying climax. ‘Hare Tarot Lies’ is more scaled back in its ambition, but it’s a quick trip above water, a chance to grab a final breath before diving deeply back in. The following song, ‘Prodigy,’ is pressure-driven and unwaveringly threatening to combust. ‘Ignored Pets’ seems to be settling in a well-masked jangle when guitars slice through the song’s conclusion like a chainsaw.

This all adds up to a difficult but rewarding listen, with the title of ‘Wait to Pleasure’ proving unpredictably literal, as the penultimate song, ‘Pleasure,’ is the album’s most serene, serving as an unadulterated healing moment. Coupled with closer ‘Uhy Yuoi Yoi,’ which brings in acoustic strums and a sense of sentimentality, ‘Pleasure’ brings the album to an abrupt conclusion, leaving you unsure of how much you liked he ride but sufficiently intrigued and impressed to give it another spin.

That shoegaze would feel imbued by a sense of doom in 2013 isn’t hard to explain, as our world is already in Mayan overtime. But No Joy’s rather unique vision is a nice reminder to appreciate our periods of reprieve, and to respect the frightening unpredictability of our reality — one that is much easier to ignore than to accept.

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