Review Summary: still travelling, but not really
Have you ever wondered if the art we make in dreams is greater than anything that can be captured in the real world, after it's fed through fallible equipment by fallible human beings, after countless hours of compromise and editing? A few months ago, I had a dream that I was hearing the second album by No Devotion, a then-theoretical piece of art that may have been humming between the layers of my subconscious since "Night Drive" wormed its way beneath my skin seven years ago. My dream album was truly masterful, gorgeous and heartbreaking and immediately memorable, though now I can't remember a word or melody - or anything beyond a vague impression of what sounded like Geoff Rickly singing over The Cure's Disintegration
What's funny, and kind of eerie: I got to hear No Oblivion
some weeks later, and it's not all that different than what I dreamed of. Hell, for all I know "A Sky Deep and Clear" could be the exact
song that played on my trip through the Sandman's realm: it's an instant classic, not dissimilar to "Plainsong" filtered through the sensibilities of No Devotion. Then there's the oddly fitting imagery scattered all across the album: Rickly repeats "that was just a dream" like a mantra over the glum "Love Songs from Fascist Italy", pines to wake up in the breathtaking close of "A Sky Deep and Clear", sings of resurrections and "a floating life where nothing can touch you". Maybe my stress-drenched, dopamine-starved brain naturally ran along similar lines to the artists' when they were making No Oblivion
. Maybe I really did dream this album into existence - who am I to rule anything out, when music already seems to defy all restrictions and limitations of physical space, when it feels like a living thing come to comfort or unsettle us whenever we need it most?
Music is weird like that. I know plenty who will be disappointed at No Oblivion
's more glacial, considered pace; or lack of "Permanent Sunlight" type bangers, give or take the Tears For Fears-esque "The End of Longing"; or its subdued and introverted stylings; or its brief runtime after so many years' wait, and on and on. The album is not above any of these criticisms, but nor is it beholden to them or any theoretical bars we may have set in our heads in the years of waiting. Much like everything Geoff Rickly ever put his pen to, No Oblivion
is another transmission directly from his heart to ours, the exact album he needed to make and nothing else.
The words of Portugeuse poet Fernando Pessoa are said to have acted as the maxim for No Oblivion
, inspiring music which embodies the feeling of "you're still travelling, but not really". The poet was referring to a taxi ride home from the airport, but I think the words just as well describe that feeling halfway between waking and sleeping, where you can see the real world and your dreams side by side but neither is fully in focus. This liminal space is exactly where No Oblivion
takes place, a half-awake world that feels like nuclear fallout shelters and busted transmission radios and ships slipping away into the night. May we always be as lucky to have an album like this to cling to as we face down the night, and its darker dreams.