When we speak of identity in the arts, in the world of pop music in particular, the very idea of mystery and intrigue is currently a very sparsely deployed one indeed. There was a time – maybe 30, 40 years ago, maybe longer – when bands were continually redefining the boundaries of popular culture whilst shielded in an impenetrable
shroud of enigma. From Kraftwerk through to the more mischievous likes of KLF, there was a concept of a sense of recklessness and artistic integrity in music whichgloriously persisted.
As NO CEREMONY/// themselves say: “It's not about a manifesto, it was never to convey a message. It was to put the music at the forefront of the conversation.” A statement as simple and direct as this should, in theory, be a given for any musician. This, however, is not the world that NO CEREMONY/// are emerging from. Over the years the musical goalposts have been shifting irrevocably, with the result being that the UK trio now stand out effortlessly in an endless landscape of relentlessly engineered pop acts and manufactured stadium rock. This, their eponymous debut LP, released in the autumn through their own NOC/// label; is their striking response.
A daring, boldly singular record that somehow pulls off the neat trick of pushing the parameters of pop music while also being brilliantly accessible. A gorgeous, haunting, and distinctive statement of intent which also happens to be filled with some of the most exquisite songs you’re likely to hear in a while and with the sorts of melodies which will lodge firmly in your head for days.
For specifics on the band itself – all we know for certain is this – NO CEREMONY/// are a trio, consisting of Kelly, James and Victoria. They emerged in late 2011, in a wraithlike swirl of self-produced videos and etheric tracks which they put online themselves. Without any fanfare or self promotion, their “HURTLOVE” demo got snapped up by Radio One and was selected by Diplo for his “Best of 2011” mixtape. A blogging frenzy quickly followed, as did radio sessions but through it all, the threesome stayed schtum. Their lack of publicity might have been interpreted as a deliberate attempt to cultivate an aura of mystery, where in fact, it couldn’t have be further from the truth. “It was just a reaction to wanting to focus on what we were doing musically,” the band insist. “It wasn't necessarily to be colder or less
accessible”. This may sound idiosyncratic to say the least but self-analysis seems not to be a skill of NO CEREMONY///; and why should it be? Their preoccupation with the wholly immersive experience of music, makes them gloriously flippant where particulars and
details are concerned. Their music makes good use of their obliviousness to the current musical landscape, with all its fleeting genres and sub-genres. Like any worthwhile pop band, they have a miraculous way of passing off the avant-garde as beautiful and making it seem purely accidental, creating instead a multi-platform experience that would become their debut LP.
The first proper single “HURTLOVE”, released in May, hinted at what the threesome of James, Kelly and Victoria had in store but with the album, the full scale and scope of their darkly enticing landscape is revealed. An album that is pronouncedly idiosyncratic yet utterly seductive, from its invocation of New Order’s nocturnal, postrave
comedown on “PARTOFME” to its rapturous appreciation of the lush pop classicism on tracks like “FEELSOLOW” and the hypnotic “WARSONGS”. Then, there is the pounding emotive stomp of “HEARTBREAKER”, featuring The Pixies’ Joey Santiago on bruising guitar and “AWAYFROMHERE”, which, with James Vincent McMorrow on wrenching guest vocals, offers a sumptuous vision of transcendental grace. The band themselves state that with the music, it’s not so much “about telling stories as creating an atmosphere”. Over the span of “NO CEREMONY///”, the jaw-dropping majesty of their unique vision is celebrated fully and without cliché.
What is so special and so unexpected, is that NO CEREMONY/// have chosen to take their distinctiveness, their mystery, as an asset, a resource, something that does not dictate their identity as a band but instead enhances it.