There are a myriad of bloggers and music critics who have argued that No Wave is objectively bad because it’s no different than a child experimenting with tools that they know nothing about. On the other hand, experimental projects can also be very compelling, and when no wave bands are committed to their ideas, their talent and musicianship will ultimately shine through as an extension of that.
The new album, Is the Idea of Us by New Fries, the critically-acclaimed No Wave band from Toronto, is a project that resulted from on-the-fly recording sessions with a similar approach to how one might write a stream-of-consciousness journal entry. The experimental noise band have been railing against traditional musicianship since they formed, and have dubbed themselves “non-musicians,” who distance themselves from Toronto pop bands with larger audiences.
Singer/guitarist Anni Spadafora and drummer Jenny Gitman are not trained musicians, and they deliberately do not study or practice instruments either. The only trained musician in the band is bassist Tim Fagan, who gives the band the necessary formula to construct a song in sessions.
The band collaborated with Carl Didur (formerly of US Girls) on production to foster a project of six songs that were recorded on the fly with interpolations of off-kilter instrumentals, pulsating drum patterns, and eerie synth basslines with treble backgrounds. One of the interludes primarily driven by drumming pulls a switch on the listener right away and invades the auditory senses with glitching, inverted frequencies (Genre III). Another interlude sounds like an iPhone Vibrating to tempo (Genre VI).
The opening track “Bangs” begins with string-plucking and an immediate tempo switch with incantations that sound like a hexing ritual. The band remains good on their word to make their sound as disruptive as possible with the blaring synths in the background, and also on “Lily,” with hissing cymbal taps and rapid staccato instrumentation culminating in a sonic catastrophe that is impossible to turn off.
In a press release the band stated that the album was meant to embody an in-between with its contentious sound, which is brought to the surface with dynamic instrumentation and menacing drones and synthesizers. The band has also confessed that they are “less interested in songwriting,” and more interested in “repetition, space, and dynamics.” The smooth bassline coupled with percussion that sounds like the aggressive tapping of drumsticks on the song “Ploce” is an extremely satisfying progression, as is the drone crescendo at the very end of the song.
New Fries is extremely skilled at framing their ideas through a progression of free-flowing production and indecipherable lyrics. This album will ultimately leave listeners reeling with many questions. However, it appears that the band intends to intervene in the useless framing of ideas that consumers tend to project onto musical projects. If you asked them when they came up with the idea for this record, it wouldn’t matter what their answer was, whether they recorded it all in one day, or over the span of a few months. On the track “Mt Tambora” Spadafora poses the question “Are you comfortable with nothing?” and as musicians they seem to be ultimately be satisfied with transcending meaning.
Is the Idea of Us will be available to download and listen to on all streaming platforms August 7th.