Review Summary: The loudest drop in the ocean
Among the worst traits of depression is the fact that it’s not always as obvious as may be expected. It’s a disease concealed beneath the skin, locked tight behind a plastic smile, often not leaving any trace outside of vague clues and lurking warning signs. Hidden in each thought and every word uttered is a quiet plea for assistance in the midst of an overbearing darkness; nothing ever really is ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or ‘just a bad day.’ This phenomenon is embodied completely by No Note so closely that is must be considered intentional and intrinsic to the chaotic, dissonant behemoth that is their debut and final album. The group’s chosen name is emblematic enough—a premature departure that left no explanation, no justification—but the rabbit hole goes into further depths. Every track composing if this is the future then I’m left in the dark
borrows its title from a Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song. Internally, the sound emitted by the mysterious Baltimore trio is anything but cheerful or lighthearted, with pulverizing post-hardcore riffs dominating the duration of the disc, a hazy production providing a gloomy, disorienting atmosphere. Of equal ominous quality is the band’s succinct biography, which reads more like an obituary with sparse details—a life cut short, the entity unconfident in their accomplishments—and then the members themselves. A Google investigation leads to a Christian journalist named Nick White, a British football executive named David Gill, and electric blues guitarist Bobby Murray. Should those be the actual team, their anonymity is astounding. Evidently, No Note is toying
with its audience, presenting expectations of happiness with their image and faking playfulness with their strange antics. Such is the plague that is depression, and such is the misery that the collective ventures to exhibit at its most threatening.
The bulk of the record is characterized by a potent blend of post-hardcore structuring alongside the similarly powerful sensibilities of emo classifications. Rather than functioning as a slow burner, No Note operate in a manner where their melancholic aura is consistently pressing against the listener, the despair created in the tunes injecting the hopeless message inside each guitar chord, thunderous drum contact, and pained lyrical expression. For the first half of the album, this primarily takes the form of rapid screamo offerings, the blunt technicality of the instrumentation bludgeoning eardrums. The discord is forced to the vanguard, the release’s production quality—an impenetrable monolith of crushing static—roaring like a waterfall as it descends, inundating tracks with its unshakable presence. A formation such as “By the Way” rushes into the fray with a blistering drum performance supported by a foreboding melody, its tone lost to a shadowy cavern as the distinctive growl of the bass prowls underneath. Suddenly, the song erupts into absolute cacophony, squealing guitars and frantic percussion morphing proceedings into a Me and Him Call it Us intervention. No Note, consistently remaining unpredictable, take this amassed momentum and promptly hurl it at a wall, the collective pushing the full weight of their sound to its heaviest extent in massive breakdown, its intensity exhilarating in its impressive composition and frightening in its raw power. This creativity continues onward into the arrangement of “Dani California,” a slow tempo introduction controlled by the drum kit gradually pulsing the number forward as the screams increase in their fury. Midway through the construction comes another drastic shift as the speed immediately spikes up and loses any sense of limitation. Post-hardcore riffs wail in the background as the percussion demonstration becomes a flurry of motion nigh incomprehensible before it collapses in on itself.
When the second portion of if this is the future…
arrives with “The Zephyr Song,” the more overt formula of the preceding half is substituted for a tactic that places a greater emphasis on longer forays. Instead of imposing their will, the collective allows for the atmosphere to settle over time, a degree of artful restraint—previously absent from the majority of the prior entries—dominating the songwriting. The strength of the aforementioned track lies not in Orchid-esque onslaughts, entertaining as they may be, but in how it slowly evolves over its comparatively-large 4-minute lifespan, a reoccurring melody characterizing the tune while the drums, as commendably varied as usual, race around alongside the more measured pace of the guitars. Rather than a threatening explosion of instrumental might, “The Zephyr Song” concludes in a rare moment of quiet, a resounding bass part taking over the reigns while shockingly graceful strumming acts in opposition to the vocal additions, their desperation laid bare in the relative silence. Of equal note is succeeding creation “Otherside” where No Note have their normally fast tempo dragged down to its slowest. The band’s newfound pension for distinguishable, enduring melodies persists, a haunting riff repeating throughout next to a refrain that is spit out in palpable disgust. There are no twisting post-hardcore passages or startling displays of technical skills; the group’s talent hinges on balancing those variables with sections dedicated to cementing a mood, neither trait overtaking the other or compromising the integrity of the record. Merging the two spheres is, appropriately, album finale “Californication.” Although initially personified by the trio’s remarkable musicianship and wild showings, the tune abruptly halts and marches at a plodding stride, the sonic output of the disc sounding more despondent than ever, the shouts placed far behind the droning of the guitars, whatever message they have to convey—that call for help, that sign that things are falling apart—drowned out in the haze.
Much like any product of this chosen genre combination, if this is the future…
manages to accomplish a great amount in a short duration, the record’s brief existence belying the titanic sound it is capable of emitting. The metaphorical connections could perhaps be applied here as well; the conciseness of the LP is similar to the short nature of a life expired prematurely, the volatile ebb and flow of emotional struggle illustrated by the deceptively joyful track listings—that cover-up for the problems crawling below, invisible to the eye. Stripped from its potential purpose and musings over what’s true about No Note and what’s falsified—the Chili Peppers names could just be a marketing gimmick—the result of their imaginative efforts is an incredible beast. There are plenty of occasions that feature enthralling instrumental expertise interspersed amongst aesthetic showcases. Depression has always fueled musical endeavors throughout history, yet its portrayal here is exceptional, the visceral shouts and screams tying the package together. For a release that appears to be a drop in the ocean, the three individual members contribute a set of skills that speak to a kind of experience that places their knack for diverse configurations significantly ahead of peers. The blazing tempos fail to blend together while the elongated journeys never come across as drawn out. At any given point in time, there is something
happening that is worthy of praise, be it due to its understated personality or its captivating aggression. Any worries about the homogenization of screamo can be set aside, as above all else, the Maryland gents have presented a stellar assortment of immersive conceptions. The abyss that is if this is the future…
opens wide as soon as a listener dares to approach, the light conquered by a far bleaker, yet ultimately thrilling, reality.