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No Age turns up the noise

Randy Randall and Dean Spunt's most ambitious album yet, 'Everything In Between,' finds the artsy L.A. duo on heavy ground.

September 26, 2010|By August Brown, Los Angeles Times

"We talked about how the process of being broken down makes you stronger," Daughters said. "The screech is a recurring theme and feels destructive but we wanted to pace the video slowly and deliberately for a contrapuntal and less literal effect, to make the violence creative."

During the making of "Everything," however, the bandmates wondered if they might get mired in that violence and never realize the creative end of the process. The album came after years of its most intensive touring to date, runs that kept members from loved ones (Spunt separated from his longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Clavin of Mika Miko and now a member of the electronica band Cold Cave, between albums) and wore on their psyches as they dwelled on the end of their 20s and the expectations of moving their strange, improbably popular band forward. An unexpected fistfight with a club bouncer in Portugal this year, well-documented on music blogs complete with bloody photos of the incident, felt ominously apropos.

"Twenty-eight is a heavy year," Randall said. "You finally have to deal with yourself, and any of your … has caught up with you. You had an idea of yourself as a teenager — but now what are you?"

Spunt agreed, alluding to a slinking personal distress and paranoia that shows up in song titles such as "Life Prowler," "Skinned" and "Depletion." Medical traumas and hopes for sanctuary are big lyrical conceits — the chorus of "Glitter" is both a warning and a plea for comfort. "Everybody's out to get you again, but I want you back underneath my skin," Spunt begs, and the line feels both evilly manipulative and genuinely pained. On album opener "Life Prowler," maybe No Age's loveliest production to date, backs a mantra that could be bleakly ironic or desperately hopeful — "I like my life, I like my life, I like my life."

"Playing these songs is uncomfortable," Randall said. "There's a real sense memory to them that puts me back into the time we were writing, and they weren't sunny places. It's a strange effect, and that wasn't always the case in the past."

A few days after the video shoot in No Age's Westlake rehearsal space, just before beginning the tour with Pavement, the band arranged its set while helicopters circled above, holding off protesters over a recent police shooting in the neighborhood. The band had the songs down, but still had to work out the most difficult pieces of the live set — the transitions.

As one brutal, propulsive single ended, Randall triggered effects on his pedal board and played high, lonely figures on guitar while Spunt rushed his cymbals and the band's touring third member, William Menchaca, manipulated spirals of static and electronic samples. Then, methodically, Randall introduced the theme to No Age's biggest single so far, "Eraser," from "Nouns."

Nailing the passage took a dozen takes but the band eventually found a languid, swelling pace it was happy with. No Age had finished the transition, and locked up the space to the whir of LAPD propeller blades overhead.

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