No Art has a moodier, darker sound than we’ve heard before from Big Scary, but it’s developed and the album is gorgeously coherent, with the songs flowing into each other with ease and a sort of assured inevitability.

Big Scary have returned with their first release in a while; moodier and more intelligible than their previous EPs. The evolution of the Melbourne duo’s sound on their second album No Art reflects a more measured approach. After an outwardly prolific period of releases, Tom and Jo became pretty quiet, focusing on touring since their 2011 debut Vacation.

 

No Art is a cyclic album that rises and falls almost like an ocean rhythm. It fades in with ‘Hello My Name Is’, a sprawling introduction that emerges from the deep with clashing percussion and pounding guitars, and fades out with the twinkling piano trills and hushed “ooh oohs” of ‘Final Thoughts, With Tom And Jo’.

 

In between, ‘Luck Now’ is a stirring, mournful rumination on fading love, and ‘Belgian Blues’ invokes Jeff Buckley with its wailing chorus and psych-garage guitars. This echoes into the processional sound of the stunning ‘Phil Collins’, a reverent homage to an ancient hymn (with surprisingly little in the way snare fills). ‘Long Worry’ is a simple ballad peppered with warmth and gentle layers of brass and guitar, contrasted with a tragic tale of quiet desperation.

 

There are a few instances that – while not exactly jarring – do pull away slightly from the flow of the album. ‘Why Hip Hop Sucks In ‘13’ is a discordant track, with vocals after Polyserena-era Katie Noonan, but it doesn’t have the weightlessness needed to float that sound. ‘Harmony Sometimes’ is similarly distracting in its incongruous blend of rhythm and vocals.

 

3.5/5 stars

 

BY NATALIE AMAT

 

Not Art is out now through Pieater/Inertia.

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