Ever had one of those moments when you heard or read about a new musical project from a couple of established musicians, got excited as your imagination began to run wild with the possibilities of what may come from the endeavor, and then learned that you couldn’t have been more right when you got a taste of the music? It’s gratifying, isn’t it? The occasion when I heard that Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember (of Spacemen 3, Spectrum and E.A.R.) and Jasmine White-Gluz (of Canadian shoe-gaze/noise-pop band No Joy) were working together was like that. My mind pinwheeled when I considered what such a working relationship might yield and, in listening to the No Joy / Sonic Boom EP (their first release), I was thrilled to discover that the results of the partnership totally lived up to my expectations.
As the thick, deep bass and understated beat which drives “Obsession” gently open the A-side of this EP, listeners will have precisely no trouble sliding into a clean, chilled out mode at all. Here, the tones employed are perfectly vintage in that they rush to explore a spotless and generally unadorned aural landscape which feels enormous but does not feel cold.
Both a series of digital synth sounds and White-Gluz’s voice enter the mix shortly thereafter and uphold the relaxing air of the song, but also make it much more exciting as well. Jasmine White-Gluz instantly takes the spotlight with a series of sighing single notes and then begins to command it by shining it in different directions and changing the angles of perception on a moment’s notice.
Throughout “Obsession,” lyrical stanzas about passive domination and conquest are only decipherable with the help of very, very close listening, but close listening is very easily inspired as the atmospheric strains of the song warm the coils of imagination and complement the lyrics perfectly. The track continues on for an astounding eleven minutes but, incredibly as well, listeners will find no easy way to extricate themselves from the experience. All the way through “Obsession,” both White-Gluz and Kember hold listeners entranced, perfectly.
Maybe it’s because “Obsession” is so long and underscored its anthemia so well that “Slorb” feels so unbelievably short (well, that and the fact that the song is less than twenty-five percent of its predecessor’s length), but that does not mean the song is inferior. In fact, where “Obsession” was only able to make a listener feel affection for itself by taking as long as it does, “Slorb” manages to send chills up spines better and faster than one could possibly imagine.
The bass which opens the song calls to mind the deep, monolithic fear that the theme from Jaws once did, but that vibe quickly smooths and becomes more urbane as drums and White-Gluz’s vocal enter the song’s aural frame. After that, the darkness of “Slorb” suddenly becomes slick, slippery and sweet – like a late-night drive along a darkened highway – which stops for nothing but takes in some remarkable sights (like the pulsing synths which appear close to song’s end) along the way.
The B-side of the No Joy / Sonic Boom EP continues along precisely the same path that its A-side counterpart did, although it remains more methodically paced than “Obsession”. “Triangle Probably” recalls the unusually-sourced percussion sampling that No Joy has been toying with for most of White-Gluz’s career to date but features a much better and more coherent vocal performance/lyric sheet (check out the sullen sigh of the singer’s lyric creation here, particularly lines like “Don’t make it sad/ Go on and on with me”) and so causes hearts to melt and minds to rest easy as a result.
The perfect counterbalance to that is the brief but comparatively caustic attack of “Teenage Panic,” which closes the side. There, White-Gluz and Kember make the most of some great musique concrète sonics to compose a cut which doesn’t feature the same sort of urbane forms or structure as the other three tracks on the EP did, but it still comes off as fitting with them. That it just sort of melts down for a couple of minutes to close the side both adds another dimension to it as well as leaving behind some ideas for listeners to consider.
“Teenage Panic” leaves listeners wondering what might come next from No Joy / Sonic Boom which, by extension, helps to germinate the hope that this EP will not be the only music to come from the project. The No Joy / Sonic Boom EP is good, but those who hear it will all (in some cases, happily) say that what the group has done here needs more examination. Here’s hoping there will be more coming from the group soon.