NO DEVOTION- ‘No Oblivion’
No Devotion have had it tough. Born as an escape from immense, intense pain in the first place, the band subsequently experienced record label collapse, addiction, poisoning and personal assault. When their debut record was suddenly pulled from shelves (and streaming services) just as it was supposed to be making its biggest splash, it was finally too much for some. That means you could also add member turnover to the list of woes too- once a six-piece, No Devotion are now the trio of vocalist Geoff Rickly, bassist Stuart Richardson and guitarist Lee Gaze- only the band seem to be taking that, like most every other thing before it, in their stride.
Seven years after that fantastic first album, this new, slimmed-down version of No Devotion have returned with a stunning second. ‘No Oblivion’ is a dense, atmospheric piece of work, drenched in shadow, dappled with light. It’s a swirling, smouldering, strange but beautiful thing. It’s a deep, dark forest of a record.
If that all sounds a little abstract, you should know that the opening cut here, ‘Starlings’, features a wall of noise that collapses somewhere between post-punk and shoegaze and an unmade movie soundtrack. And the fantastically-overblown percussion that signals the arrival of the title track could punch a hole through your speakers.
‘A Sky Deep and Clear’ is another cinematic track, but while it starts in widescreen it soon zooms incredibly close, slithering inside your personal space via Reznor-esque ear candy and Rickly whispering “I can’t find the air”. ‘Endless Desire’ could have been written in 1982 but is less in awe of No Devotion’s influences (Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Joy Division) and more concerned with cooking up something new from the same compelling ingredients. While ‘In a Broken Land’ forgoes sounding like anyone else at all, the sonic equivalent of a deep fog rolling over a barren cityscape.
The band maintain this rare balance of genuine experimentation with real thrills throughout. You can let each song wash over you, or, more accurately, pull you under, or you can focus on a particular tone or instrument and find something new or original to hear every time. For example, some of the stuff Gaze is doing with his guitar might not be immediately obvious but, as with the eddying chords of ‘Repeaters’ or chomping riff buried in the title track, it’s an essential piece of the puzzle. Keep listening and if anything, it sounds like there are more people behind the music than before, not less.
No Devotion named their debut ‘Permanence’- a testament to durability, the sound of something meant to last. And I don’t think the title here (or the cover art of, quite literally, light at the end of a tunnel) is an accident either. They might be operating at new depths surrounded by gloomier darkness but, despite everything that’s been thrown at them, No Devotion refuse to die. The end is not at all nigh. Oblivion ignored. Future secured.