Melkbelly’s Nothing Valley is the product of more patience than its pummel and scrape suggest. The close-knit quartet’s first recorded output since the Pennsylvania EP in 2014 is a solidified vision of ‘90s indie rock turned to rubble.
Melkbelly vocalist/guitarist Miranda Winters’ unphased sing-speak voice on the previously released tracks “Kid Kreative” and “Middle Of”, that of a new Deal sister heretofore unknown, makes the first half of their “sounds like X-meets-Y” equation easy enough. It is the “Breeders plus what?” question that lingers. The Chicago band make noisy rock, but not quite noise rock. Too many hooks unspoil the static broth. Melkbelly is abrasive, but not antisocial.
“Petrified” and “RUNXRN” have some Timony-esque turns of melody, but they’re heavier than Helium. Drummer James Wetzel met husband and wife Miranda and guitarist Bart Winters at a Lightning Bolt show, and that influence breaks through in sharp flashes, but, again, aside from the opening surge of “Off the Lot”, the two bands aren’t necessarily RIYL-close. Traces of vintage Merge and Matador accelerants can be found in the melted corners.
Composed of a married couple, a pair of brothers and a drummer schooled on jazz, Melkbelly is a family affair with what might have been a floating anchor, but Nothing Valley doesn’t drift. From the outside, at least, their combustion engine seems to run on chaotic cohesion, not familial friction.