N0V3L Grapple with Vancouver's Broken Systems on 'NON-FICTION'
Published May 26, 2021First and foremost, BC post-punk outfit N0V3L fiercely identify as anti-capitalists. It's a personal statement that extends to the artistic intentions contained in their debut full-length record, NON-FICTION — a functionalist, stony political excursion that parses through manifestations of injustice, inequity and broken systems.
With NON-FICTION, vocalist Jon Varley has largely ditched the shrill, new-wave bravado vocal stylings that accented the group's tightly-wound 2019 self-titled EP in favour of a more brutalist, deadpan delivery. Backed by understated, sluggish basslines and frenetic, interwoven guitars, Varley's lyrics paint an extremely grey portrait of modern-day life, examining the symptoms of capitalism through the lens of Vancouver's unforgiving housing market, populism gone awry and the West Coast's opioid crisis without ever feeling too heavy-handed.
Written between 2017 and 2020 in the band's since-torn down Vancouver rental home, N0V3L's debut LP finds the band adopting the sonic fashions and palettes of '70s and '80s post-punk, staunchly positioning themselves as musical dissidents ousted from the ethos of their own decade, a rebellious alternative to the default. N0V3L sometimes stray into not-like-other-bands territory when aesthetics take precedence over content, but for the most part, the group have presented a thorough and sympathetic read-through of their socially-minded positions.
Standout tracks like "UNTOUCHABLE" and "STRANGER" offer monochromatic dancefloor sensibilities while album closer "NOTICE OF FORECLOSURE" sees the group grimly ruminating on the instability of metropolitan life. On the track, Varley murmurs , "Forced adaptation, notice of foreclosure / Dragging us forward, an indifferent future," signalling a growing sense of collective insecurity and hopelessness felt not only in their home province, but globally.
The record may be an intentionally dreary outing, but it's a compulsory statement about present-day politics. Taking the form of the self-described "macabre late-capitalist disco," the band's particular flavour of alternative music makes the project's message pleasantly jarring and all the more rugged. Simultaneously sleek and jagged, N0V3L's debut is a strong starting point for a band who have already decided what they're all about. (Flemish Eye)