Screw you and your million-dollar multi-track digital recording studio. There. I said it and I’d say it again. Theselah would probably say it as well. For No Sleep, More Fun was recorded entirely on a four-track recorder. Having gone that route myself and understanding what it takes to come up with a good sound and good production from said technique, I can fully appreciate what this band is doing and honestly give this album the highest recommendation possible. But perfect? Yes, Theselah’s sophomore effort is indeed that. It is multi-layered, filled with noises that leap out left and right, simple chords, simple drumming, a distinct knack for melody and a blurring of the senses that make for a fascinating album with limitless possibilities.
No, this isn’t another Ween-type excursion recorded on a shoestring budget with a lot of stoned laughs. If anything, the songs that make up the album are downright scary. Scary in a way that not even Trent Reznor has figured out yet. Theselah has managed to really scrape the bone here with their sonic textures and paranoid vocals that make events like Tool’s “comeback” seem irrelevant. The band literally buzzes on the spooky “Uryne” that opens with amplifiers crackling, waiting for the electric notes from the guitars to be pushed through the cracked cones. Those notes eventually arrive in the form of pure electric buzz. Are those chords or just pure white noise? The vocals are over-amped, resulting in each line ending in a ring of hollow feedback that is both trance inducing and more than a little unnerving.
On “Bad-Ass HiFi”, the drums are pushed through this delayed track echo effect that I used to get on a rotten old two-track reel to reel by feeding the mic through my stereo live so that the sound would travel through the speakers and back into the mic while also having the second track such off, creating the shaky echo. It’s neat to hear this effect used by someone else (whether or not Theselah acquired the effect in the same way is unknown, but it sounds strikingly similar). There are no words to the song; the guitars simply feedback and grind away as the drums are pounded into the ether and the lone simple bass line ties it all together. But Theselah isn’t all about jarring abstract noise. The opening “Nothing Special” and “Green-Blue Crayon” echo Spiritualized’s Lazer Guided Melodies and Pure Phase at their best moments.
Comprised of the Kims and Yangs (Joseph Kim and David Yang on guitar, vocals, and bass, Nam Kim on drums, and David Yang on bass, vocals, and drums), Theselah has created a sonic masterpiece here. Whether they are combining their distorted chords and “la la la’s” on the strange “Anna Come Out” or experimenting with dissonance and pop on the trippy “Lazy Dresser”, No Sleep, More Fun is a sprawling, yet surprisingly coherent mix of psychedelia, lo-fi buzz, and alterna-pop that remains grounded firmly even at its most cerebral moments. The band finally gives in to its white noise tendencies in the shrieking “Take It Fast or Take It Slow”, then melts away the nightmare with the languid “Rooks Derisious”. The album closes with the punk thrash of “Anthem to K.O.A.” and the startlingly delicate “Little Song to Self”.
Nothing on this album is wasted. Not one note, not one crushing chord, not one drum beat. No Sleep, More Fun is proof that experiments in the outer fringes of the rock lexicon need not be pretentious and boring. It also proves that you can indeed still create something well worth hearing from the confines of your own basement, garage, or where ever else you may like to record with your four track machine. And though this album might not be for everyone out there, I guarantee that Theselah has what it takes to make the fascinating kinds of records that such acts as Radiohead and Tool are often touting yet rarely break any ground with. Here’s the real so-called “post rock”. Actually, it’s just unclassifiable and I think that’s much cooler. Don’t you?