Acclaimed Cardiff duo No Thee No Ess return with their eagerly anticipated new album, California.
California marks the first new release from No Thee No Ess since 2016’s acclaimed The Silver Stream. The album sees the Cardiff-based duo of Andy Fung (Dererro, Cymbient) and Paul Battenbough (The Cosmic Array, King of Despair) continuing to explore their uniquely unstructured collaboration, fusing timeless song-craft with intricate harmonies, spur-of-the-moment lyricism, indelible melody, and improvisational adventurousness. Songs like Florid Peaks and the expansive title track are lit from within by the audacious spirit of the Golden State, inspired in part by Laurel Canyon folk rock, SF psych, Bakersfield country, and NorCal indie rock but made complete via No Thee No Ess’ own immersive, idiosyncratic approach.
“I’ve never been there but our whole creative vision really owes a debt to the music, art and general vibe of California,” says Fung. “Bands like Grandaddy and Neil Young and the Grateful Dead have directly influenced our sound and approach to songwriting.”
“Wales is a bit like California on the coast,” says Battenbough, “though to my mind Wales is slightly better. I was there in 1978, learning to swim in motel pools to a backdrop of gunfire and murder. Downtown LA was a dystopian nightmare of a place, burning cars in the dark on street corners; I’d never been to such a dangerous place. California is a beautiful sounding word though and I think a good title for us considering its incredible influence.”
California was produced and recorded by No Thee No Ess at their own Surk Studio in Cardiff; the album was mixed by Ali Chant (Gruff Rhys, Perfume Genius, Giant Sand) at Bristol’s Toybox Studio.
No Thee No Ess united in 2008, bringing together two of Cardiff’s most unique musicians and visual artists, both known for infusing psychedelic influence into their painting and recorded body of work. Then as now, the goal was to create original music in as organic a fashion as possible, writing and recording instinctively, with limited takes and minimal ego. No Thee No Ess has since earned ecstatic international acclaim, with BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens hailing the duo’s “beautiful melodies and wonderfully orchestrated arrangements.” No Depression declared 2013’s Spring Dawn Glow to be “deliciously funny and imaginatively rich…a perfect work of art on every level,” further praising Fung and Battenbough’s “incredibly clever songwriting” and “beautiful and expressive vocal charm.”
Spring Dawn Glow is the fourth release from No Thee No Ess. The band is the musical project of acclaimed artists Andy Fung and Paul Battenbough, examples of whose work can be found on the front and rear covers respectively. For those not in the know, they are also regular collaborators with Welsh music giants such as Richard James (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) and Cate le Bon.
“Beautiful melodies and wonderfully orchestrated arrangements.”
– Huw Stephens, BBC RADIO 1
“The album deserves to be listened to over and over again…If you like The Flaming Lips, Pavement, Grandaddy, Sparklehorse, The Beach Boys, Gruff Rhys or even Stephen Merritt you will absolutely love this album.”
– No Depression
“…an album full of twists, turns and tangents…immediate and exciting, but with plenty to discover.” ****
– Thank Folk for That
Order the CD: £8.99 + P&P
Alternatively visit Bandcamp to preview and buy the download album +/- the CD:
Here’s a video of the opening track Collapsing Realities made by Paul Battenbough:
Lights Over The Lake is the bands third album and builds on an approach to music first heard in their self-released Winter EP (2011) – Folk-rock with densely layered sounds, intricate backing vocals, harmonies and soaring strings alongside guitar feedback, ambient noise and electronica. It’s a wonderfully complex and engaging album with great songs, catchy tunes and a definite nod towards 60s psychedelia!
Lights Over The Lake – No Thee No Ess – £8.99 + P&P
CD packaged in a beautifully designed limited edition hand-printed sleeve created by the artists themselves.
- Space Instrumental
- Waiting For A King
- Let’s Get Away
- Distant Songs
- Devastated City
- Leaving The City
- The Sponsor’s Song
- Flying In Dreams
- Really Miss
- Loop Tape
- Good For Me
- Siamese Fighter
- Deep Dark Wood
“Out soon on Folkwit Records, Lights Over The Lake brings to mind some esteemed comparisons – Pavement and Flaming Lips to name two – and its opening trio succeeds in living up to them. Instrumental intro, Space Instrumental drives through a haze of ambience, while lush harmonies and instrumental soundscapes emphasise the melancholy of Waiting For A King. Meanwhile, Let’s Get Away For A While wouldn’t sound out of place on The Soft Bulletin. However, No Thee No Ess fall just short of their influences in the strength and depth of songwriting – songs such as Leaving The City begin with promise – but at 60 minutes long the album struggles to hold attention throughout. It’s a grower though, perhaps repeated listens will reveal a Pet Sounds in waiting.”
– JOC, The Miniature Music Press – themmp.tv
God only knows where they’d be without Brian
“It wasn’t that long ago that I, along with the other contributors to this website, was struggling not to mention Neil Young in around 50% of all reviews, the influence at the time was that obvious. Nowadays it’s more likely to be Brian Wilson..
The other great emerging conclave is the bedroom auteurs assembling their tuneage symphonies to God (i.e. Brian Wilson) from unlikely elements. Andy Fung and Paul Battenbough are guilty on both counts but that doesn’t stop this from being an enjoyable and enduring record. ‘Let’s Get Away’ more than nods to Beach Boys songs and the lush strings and summery harmonies reinforce the borrowing.
The Beach Boys aren’t the only influence at play; the palette is broader than that, it spreads into Americana and indie-rock. ‘Birds’ starts like Knife in the Water (band not film) then gradually builds and blossoms, transforming itself into a rhythm guitar driven monster from which a lead guitar gradually emerges. It seems to end; but just pauses for breathe before gently starting again meandering towards acoustic guitars and staccato violin plucks, it’s eight minutes of your life that if you could relive it, then you’d choose to spend it in exactly the same way.
At times the high pitched vocals (I’m thinking especially of ‘Flying in Dreams’) can be distracting, on the spoken word ‘Devastated City’ this is certainly not a charge that can be substantiated. The narrator (Battenbough) delivers with great presence and confidence On ‘Good for Me’ the vocals are excellent as is the song which uses harmony and counterpoint to build the song before they fall away leaving understated strings to hold hands with the rock trio as the vocals soar like condors above. They take care over the music and package the whole thing in their own psychedelic art; they do stray toward the familiar and predictable at times and strain the limits of their abilities. This results in some excellent high points and some filler, they do have the virtue of always being interesting.”
– Dave Cowling, Americana UK
“No Thee No Ess are a band who like many of their Welsh compatriots (Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) create music that does not fit into any particular scene or genre, but create music that will engulf your whole body and mind and transport you to a mystic world.
Lights Over The Lake is an album that is full of soaring strings, ambience and atmosphere, and densely layered sounds, haunting vocals and sweet harmonies. This is an album that demands full attention from the listener. There are some who may criticise the album for being too long, with it’s 14 tracks and one hour play length some may find it difficult to remain attentive throughout. Though in an age where the creative art of the album is being lost, it is refreshing to have a band releasing an album that demands the listeners attention from start to finish.
The other beauty with this album is the more you listen to it, the more things you discover. There is too much going on to appreciate the complexities on just one listen. Each listen leads to the discovery of new magical moments.
Standout tracks include ‘Waiting for a King’, a reflective moment of melancholic beauty. ‘Birds’ which at over eight minutes long becomes the albums pivotal point, this is an earth shattering song that highlights the unique talent of the band. ‘Devastated City’ is a spoken word track telling a story which gives the listener something to focus and reflect upon. ‘Good For Me’ is another moment of beauty which would not have been out of place on a Gorky’s album. ‘Siamese Fighter’ is a song that Wayne Coyne would be proud of, you will be hard pushed to find a more psychedelic lyric all year than “stay in and get high/eating apple pie/cos its good for me”.
If you are looking for an album that is full of cosmic psychedelic pop then ‘Lights Over The Lake’ is an album for you. This is an album that I will be going back to many times over the next twelve months, and is certainly one I will go back to when it comes to compiling the end of year lists.” – Rating: 7/10
– Steve Tay, A Musical Priority
About No Thee No Ess:
Welsh band No Thee No Ess are Andy Fung and Paul Battenbough who together with a host of friends have created a unique musical experience.
More about No The No Ess here.
More about Andy Fung here.