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Montreal’s No Joy—since 2009, a noisy four-piece shoegaze band, from 2015 onward, the sonic experiments of founding member and principal vocalist Jasamine White-Gluz—has rejected convention, opting to find cohesion in vast, bold, indiscernible structures. In the beginning, the group excavated melodious riffs from squalling guitars, now, White-Gluz approaches songwriting with abstract meticulousness, no longer tethered to her six-string instrument. In 2018, it was the modular electronica of No Joy / Sonic Boom, an EP collaboration with Spaceman 3’s Pete Kember. In 2020, her first full-length as a soloist and No Joy’s first album in five years, Motherhood, her guitar returned for a genre-agnostic, maximalist treatise on aging. Fertility, family, death, birth, her voice heard loud in the mix, White-Gluz became a commanding force among the many-splendored sounds of trip-hop, trance, nu-metal, dance rock, and, of course, shoegaze, delivered through banjo, vibraphone, scrap metal, slap bass, even kitchen appliances. Who knew chaos could have such lucidity?
Now, White-Gluz’s ever-expansive evolution has brought forth 'Can My Daughter See Me From Heaven', an EP reanimation of five songs fromMotherhood, transformed by new orchestral instrumentalists: an opera singer, a cellist, a harpist, French horn musician. These songs, recorded entirely remotely, are not a correction. They are a spring rebirth—an opportunity to grow those tracks, similar to the transformation they would’ve undergone live, on stage. “Songs take on a new life when I’m on tour. These songs didn’t get that chance. I still had more to say with them,” White-Gluz explains. “I probably never would’ve been like ‘let’s get a bunch of classically trained players together,’ if it wasn’t for covid-19 [canceling tours. This EP] was an opportunity to do something that wasn’t obvious. It’s a bedroom recording, but it doesn’t sound like we recorded this in our bedrooms. I wanted to do something that sounded bigger than Motherhood did, and Motherhood was recorded before covid.” Where many musicians used last year’s disaster to look inward, releasing solitary, insular albums, No Joy did the opposite: “It was more, ‘Let’s try everything!’ Give me something to look at!”
And there is much to look at. The songs of 'Can My Daughter See Me From Heaven' are bigger—but they’re brighter, too, an ascension from the physical thrash of the terrestrialMotherhood. Ugly, angelic arrangements are the reason, and No Joy’s collaborators old and new are the cause: co-producer and guitaristTara McLeod (Kittie) from Toronto returned, as did Jorge Elbrecht (Sky Ferreira, Japanese Breakfast, Wild Nothing) and Heba Kadry (Björk, Slowdive, Ryuichi Sakamoto) for mixing and mastering, respectively.New additions include Toronto’s Sarah Tawer, a virtuosic drummer who can cover any genre, Nailah Hunter, experimental harpist from Los Angeles, Montreal’s Ouri, a performance artist and cellist, and Calgary’s Brandi Sidoryk, a master of the French horn and a classically trained opera singer who performed backup to White-Gluz—a No Joy first, but not the only one. “I don’t even play guitar on this record,” White-Gluz adds.“That’s never happened before.”
Opener “Kidder,” the last track from 'Motherhood', loses its distortion on the EP, opting instead for divinity: heavy harp, dreamy lap steel guitars. “I never wanted to lean into the fairy princess thing,” White-Gluz jokes, “But we let this one go where it needed to go.”“Fish” has become the sound of a soul leaving its body—dissonant cello behaving like menacing feedback, Brandi’s operatic vocal delivery looped and sampled in the distance—a far cry from The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails-inspired guitar of the original. “Four” ditches the DJ booth for air, “a Disney Springtime walk,” as White-Gluz describes it. What follows is “Teenager,” a gorgeous cover of the deep Deftones ’WhitePony' cut, complete with raw studios sounds (pedals going on and off, White-Gluz’s labored breathing between takes) and an eight-minute, extended version of “Dream Rats,” now without White-Gluz sister Alissa of deathcore band Arch Enemy, ironically made heavier and sludgier than before.
A close listen to all five songs will reveal the absurdist influences behind the EP: Disney’s1986 DTV Valentine special, which set tracks like Eurythmics’ “There Must Be An Angel ”to classic animation, live reimaginations of ‘90s alt-favorites like Bjork performing“Isobel” with a live orchestra, and inventive instrument expressions of the same era, like steel drums and acoustic guitars on Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Says.” “Some of those late 90s electronica trip-hop acts involved strings in their live performance. I was interested in that, and with some of them, I was like, ‘Let’s go full Little Mermaid,” White-Gluz says.
It is unusual, then, that a band called No Joy found inspiration for their latest release in the joys of childhood, on an EP that tackles maternity and bodily limitation, but since when has No Joy been interested in predictability? 'Can My Daughter See Me From Heaven' is an eccentric dream—a visionary concept, delivered with the beauty of an orchestra, punctuated with post-metal. It is alive.