Published Aug 23, 2013"We worked on writing songs prior to the ones we made for this album," explains Randy Randall, one half (along with Dean Spunt) of Southern California art-punk duo No Age. "We found ourselves dissatisfied with them in that they [were] just going along the same lines that we'd worked in the past, and we kind of had to break down the process of writing."
Where No Age's third album, Everything in Between, built on the waves of distorted noise characteristic of their early output by adding layers of sparkling guitars to their oeuvre, their fourth, titled An Object, strips it all back again. "We thought, 'How can we break this machine up a little bit, of us as a band, and try to get to some guts?'" The answer came from friends of the band, whose work in other media provided unexpected inspiration. "We'd been talking with [Chris Johanson] a lot while we were making the album, not about the album but about furniture-making, these rough ideas of at-home carpentry. And [artist] Oscar Tuazon. His pieces really challenge the spaces they're in. That kind of inspired us to use similar concepts within music without really knowing what the result would be. It was a challenge to ourselves: how can we challenge a space within an album?"
The duo adopted a minimalist palette and began recording ideas that became fodder for looping, twisting, and otherwise manipulating into other forms. The ethereal, slow-burning "Running From A Go-Go," for example, was actually created from gorgeous album centrepiece "An Impression," whose gentle, snapping heartbeat and woozy strings are utterly unrecognizable from the former's conveyor belt hums, scrapes and chirps.
"It's the same track, with the drums taken out, and then reversed and slowed down. Everything on the album, once it was recorded, could find itself in another song. There was a cannibalistic, slash-and-burn mentality we had when it came to the album. Once an idea was laid down to tape, it was part of the feast, and nothing was going too far. Nothing was sacred."
Elsewhere, the sparse chug of "Defector/ed" and the dirge-y mantra of "A Ceiling Dreams of A Floor" reflect the rough-hewn elegance of the duo's raw musical materials.
The idea was to "construct" an album the same way one might construct furniture, or a building, so the duo engaged in every step of An Object's making: writing, recording, typesetting, manufacturing and packaging. The result, according to Randall, was "an object." "A Maserati is an object. A toothbrush is an object. They're all just objects. At some point, no matter how complicated this thing could get, it serves the same purpose as a fucking rock; it'll weigh a piece of paper down."
But then, Randall's seen the making of an album first-hand. "For an album to come out amazing," he explains, "there's an element of chance, there's an element of hard work, and blood, sweat, and tears that go into it that maybe isn't appreciated. You think, 'Ah, it's just an album.' So," he adds of An Object's title, "it's also celebratory: it's an object! A physical thing!"