No Shouts, No Calls
lectrelane are great. They can’t really play their instruments, aren’t particularly talented singers, and record almost everything in a super-minimal, naturalistic way that could best be described as sparse. I think they’re fantastic.
Since 2001’s Rock It to the Moon they have been mining a seam of rudimentary, repetitive post-rock that dips into indie-pop, grunge, jazz, Krautrock, and choral music but never loses its sense of aesthetic unity. The Power Out in 2004 added vocals and recognizable song structures to the previously instrumental mix, while 2005’s almost totally improvisational Axes took the band down darker, more challenging tunnels.
No Shouts, No Calls, the all-girl quartet’s fourth and best album, harks back to the lighter pop tones of The Power Out, pushing the importance of melodies, song structures, and the unashamed communication of emotions even further to the fore. The crepuscular excursions of Axes and the propulsive force of Rock It to the Moon are far from forgotten, though. There’s no need to change how they play; just what and why.
Written in Germany during the multi-cultural explosion of hope that was last year’s World Cup, and recorded not with Steve Albini but in a manner similar, No Shouts, No Calls isn’t just their most song-based work, it’s also their most romantic. It’s strange to hear Verity Susman singing (almost) traditional relationship lyrics rather than obscure French poetry or oblique political metaphor. Lead single “To the East” is a straight love song, albeit, as you would expect from Electrelane, with a bohemian, intellectual twist, as the singer implores the object of her affections to move with her away from the West, presumably to some romantic hideaway beyond the long-fallen Iron Curtain (“It could be home for you and me,” she sings).
It’s not all loved-up though. “Between the Wolf and the Dog” is the kind of darkly kinetic, energising instrumental thriller Electrelane have always excelled at, but now they’re just as happy to drop in the contented ukulele strum of “Cut & Run,” the delicious organ groove of “Tram 21,” and the joyous progressions of “The Greater Times” too. “In Berlin” perhaps best captures the mood; delicate piano and strings counter vocals enunciating couplets about freezing to death that somehow echo with bliss atop the still-muscular scaffolding of guitars and drums.
Over the course of their previous records Electrelane have learnt how to strip rock to its skeletal aesthetic core; by losing the fear of direct communication and adding unabashed sentimentality and emotional as well as sonic intimacy, they’ve done something akin to revealing the redemptive quintessence of what can be done with rock’s most basic ingredients, namely guitars, drums, and voices raised in melody. What they are now, in a number of senses, is essential.