No Pop, the fourth album from Odonis Odonis, is the sound of motion. These are songs of speed and machinery: subways, bullet trains, fast cars, highways, treadmills. Despite the album’s reliance on electronic equipment, one can still catch a whiff of the organic smells of grease and oil, sweat and smog, insomnia and illicit chemicals.
Opening track “Night Beat” is all darkness and potential thrills. It’s also an instrumental, a bold move for an introduction, but one that’s appropriate for an album defined by minimalism and repetition. “Check My Profile” feels like a text message typed on one hand as lyrics are repeated with slight variations. Set against Jarod Gibson’s throbbing drum machine, the song is a desperate plea for connection in a world of screens and determined detachment from humanity.
One wishes that David Lynch had chosen “Nasty Boy” for the latest season of Twin Peaks; it’s of a piece with the prehensile masculinity on display in episode 9. The song’s title is never mentioned, but lyrics like “Spit it up / call you out / not enough / get off of me” complement grinding, queasy keyboards to drive the point home. Car alarms blare intermittently and the message seems to be DON’T TOUCH ME.
In “One,” a steady beat pulsates so intently, one can feel the air blowing from the speakers. The song may reference a splitting of the self: if you’re drowning, who will you save, the id or the ego? “Hush / surrounds us / seeking refuge / taking water / no sense until /one divides.”
Like “Check My Profile,” “Eraser” is a cry for help. Synth beats like whip cracks dominate as warning beeps blare in the background. “Face it boy / you’re in over your head,” is chanted repeatedly.
No Pop’s midpoint is the extraordinary, wordless “Tracer,” a track that defines the feeling of the album as a whole. Each beat is a highway light flying past the windshield of a speeding car; there are intermittent sounds of engines revving and decelerating, then revving and decelerating, translated into subtle chord changes that create an ongoing, low-level sensation of both purpose and panic.
From there the stakes are raised. “Vision” features one line – “I had a vision” – affixed to the thump of dance floor techno, all strobe lights, smoke machines, and cigarette butts on a dirty floor. A fake-out ending is set against singer Dean Tzenos’ fading words before the song returns with increased intensity. It’s a room full of people lost in their own erotic desires, all brought together by a distorted, high pitched vocal line.
“Fluke” is dangerous and mysterious. “Promise me that you’ll come alone,” Tzenos whispers, sounding like a stalker who sources his victims through Tinder. Flourishes of electronic drums and wailing vocals mix with synthesizers like animal cries. “By The Second” slows things down further, as a distorted piano note plays over and over against a deep, pounding bassline from Denholm Whale. Then a sweetly maudlin synth melody caresses a falsetto vocalization, that old Odonis Odonis trick of offering something beautiful yet bittersweet to vanquish the darkness, at least for a little while.
“Needle” finishes the album with a quavering synthesizer offset by a grating static that threatens to take over the song before fading away. A drum embellishment is the final coda.
With Post Plague, the band’s previous album, Odonis Odonis revealed their evolution into a more industrial direction, even as they flirted with the Gothic sounds of bands like Depeche Mode and Tones on Tail. No Pop is the sound of a band who has definitively and defiantly established their own aesthetic. Each song is exquisitely crafted and perfectly sequenced, which makes the fact that the album was recorded in three days something of a shock.
No Pop’s cover art depicts a piece of wreckage floating in the ocean, a reflection of the band’sattitude towards the album: “it is the soundtrack of a sinking ship, and we’re all happily aboard to go down with it.” Yet the band’s logo, one large circle enveloping a smaller one, belies a sense of constant motion, and implies that Odonis Odonis might be nihilists, but they’re not ready to stop moving forward just yet.
No Pop was released on October 20 by Felte Records in the US and EU, and by Telephone Explosion in Canada.