Negaverse is the parallel reality that gave Darkwing Duck his archenemy/evil twin and spawned the main villains of Sailor Moon. Whether or not the title to Montreal fuzz rockers No Joy‘s first EP is a reference to this possibly shared fictional universe is unknown, but Negaverse is an equally bleak place. The “negative” side of this portmanteau in the case of No Joy is not a place of wickedness and horror, but rather what the band’s moniker infers: a world devoid of bliss.
Like No Joy’s debut album, Ghost Blonde, Negaverse conjures the effects-pedal-induced haze of the late ’80s and early ’90s. “Junior”, for example, is a straightforward run through shoegaze tropes. Clouds of distortion obscure light, wispy vocals to dreamlike effect, but on “Junior”, No Joy blitzes along with a newfound cohesion. Specifically, Negaverse flashes further back than the Creation Records era, visiting the realms of punk and even surf rock for short, punchy, and still discordant numbers like “Junior” and “Shame Cave”. “VHFD” plods through the abyss, finding neither escape nor doom within the murkiness.
Negaverse is not, though, exclusively a love letter to the atmospheric side of My Bloody Valentine and Lush. On “Yang Sanpanku”, those shoegaze elements glisten with a glossy studio finish and electronic drum loops, as if to make it a head-nodding hypnotizer, and it works. Like the cult leaders who feature the eyes of the song’s namesake, the song has that “lull the cattle to a blissful stupor before chasing Phenobarbital-laced applesauce with vodka” quality. No Joy describes their music as “party anthems for depressed people,” and “Yang Sanpanku” and the wall-of-sound escaping “Smiley Face” fit the bill thanks to their new rhythmic stylings.
Overall, the atmosphere on Negaverse isn’t as immersing as that on Ghost Blonde, but it’s a parallel realm worth visiting.
Essential Tracks: “Yang Sanpanku”