¡NO! is a psychedelic improvisational band from Dublin. Formed in 2013 by multi-instrumentalists Fergus Cullen and Graham Montogomery, bassist L Ron Cupboard, and drummer Jamie Davis; the group combine classical and jazz training with styles as disparate as psychedelia, krautrock, progressive rock, no wave, free jazz and electronica to form their own. Members have previously collaborated with internationally renowned avant-garde musicians like Damo Suzuki (Can) and Glenn Branca, and are the curators of the monthly Concrete Soup residency at Block T in the city centre. ‘¡NO!’ also the title of their debut album.
If you’re looking for an antithesis to the bands and artists that transcend the Irish music scene for all of their radio-friendly unit shiftiness (see Kodaline), look no further than ‘¡NO!’. What these eight tracks lack in accessibility, they more than make up for in eccentricity and intrigue. You won’t find the feel good hit of the summer, but you will find an array of hypnotic rhythms and attention grabbing sounds and noises, at times pondering which instrument exactly was it that produced it. Take the world music infused Mapstains for example, which sees pitchy, distorted wind instruments trade blows with fuzzy guitars that mimic brassy toots against a backdrop of tribalist drumming and incessantly looping basslines before the whole thing seems to fall apart in a blaze of glorious cacophony. Pylon Treehouse cracks open with a driving rhythm section with some odd synthesized ray gun sounds bobbing along after them like a novelty monkey tied to an exhaust pipe, eventually giving way to some grandiose yet minimal fuzzy guitar leads. Closer Scavs sees the band reach near drone metal levels of distortion; it’s bottom end almost subsonic, swallowing all other instruments almost completely whole.
There are some moments of beauty. The clarinet noodling on Flue and One Cracker Closer To Death are oddly pretty. The sparser moments on the album are what help to make it so alluring. But anything pretty is pretty in a quaint sort of way. The wind spiralling is often discordant or underpinned by some obscure voice sample or bizarre synth noise.
With tracks like the angular Krumbz, ‘¡NO!’ is never going to appeal to the masses but that in itself is what makes it so appealing. The music is free, loose, fun, spontaneous and fun, and self-affirming. Does it always have to be about the glossy production and killer hooks? ¡NO!