Release Date: Jul 1, 2014
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Left-Field Pop
NoNoNo's full-length debut album, 2014's We Are Only What We Feel, showcases the Swedish trio's bright, melodic, dance-oriented synth pop. Centered around vocalist Stina Wäppling, the group also features the talents of keyboardist Michel "Rocwell" Flygare and guitarist Tobias "Astma" Jimson (otherwise known as the production duo Astma & Rocwell). Together, Wäppling, Flygare, and Jimson make the kind of ubiquitous, mainstream electronic-based music that straddles the line between radio-friendly pop and atmospheric electronica.
There's nothing wrong with affirmation, but NONONO doesn't sound like a project that knows exactly what it's affirming. A new collaboration between production duo Astma & Rocwell and singer Stina Wäppling, the Swedish trio gestures toward the otherworldly moodiness of more adventurous electronic artists from their corner of the world. The group's debut We Are Only What We Feel is full of the kind of itchy beatwork that populated MØ's No Mythologies to Follow earlier this year, but falls even further from the Scandinavian equilibrium of terror and pleasure best embodied in the Knife's early work.
“Fire Without a Flame” begins with an emblem of NONONO’s entire debut, We Are Only What We Feel: a fuzzy guitar plays a hook, then a fuzzy synth doubles it, one mechanically perfect phrasing crowding out another. I don’t fetishize the human body as instrument and electronic music has an infinite palette, but Pro Tools plug-ins have emotive limit points. The returns of music snapped-to-grid are not diminishing so much as they tend toward identical signification: the erasure of possibility and the subservience of human pleasure to binary code.
The success or failure of a Happy Meal toy often lies with the showiness of its doohickey, its gimmick. For instance, does the plastic replica of the penguin from Frozen dance upon pressing the button on its backside? Does it sing? Do its arms move? It’s also important to note that even though the doohickey may be game-changing, it can’t transcend an already bad toy. The debut LP from Swedish synthpop outfit NONONO, We Are Only What We Feel, is that bad toy, a windup gizmo of sonic doohickies smothered by the forgettable songs they’re found in.
It’s evident from the first listen that NONONO struggled to find an identity while crafting their debut album. But ultimately, the complacency exhibited by latching onto indie electro-pop’s latest trends makes the listener question if they even wanted an identitiy to begin with. NONONO’s only definitive sonic feature on We Are Only What We Feel is that they sound like they are trying to be everyone else.