NOTS - 3 LP
We’re constantly being monitored. If you have a smartphone, this is as true as if you lived under the grip of a Communist regime. The Memphis post-punk band Nots aren’t alone in feeling suffocated by this—an omnipresent eye doesn’t usually cause a welcoming feeling. Even the gods can be vengeful. It’s been three years since their sophomore album, Cosmetic, which was influenced by both the Chilean leftist poet Pablo Neruda and the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet’s Human Landscapes, written while Hikmet was a political prisoner. Even after downsizing to three members, their third album, 3, continues their brawny, subversive, and self-assured stride.
Throughout 3, Nots remind us that no minor action or thought goes unnoticed. “Safety illusion/A neon net/A surveillance veil,” shouts Natalie Hoffman on “Surveillance Veil,” authoritatively but far away, as if through a long PVC pipe. She comes closer at the end of the song, yelling to wake us up: “Watching them, watching the rain, watching everything mundane.” Hoffmann’s guitar rings like a siren and Charlotte Watson’s drums keep an anxious, accelerated pace.
Under watchful eyes, our behavior changes, our personality changes, our reality changes. On album highlight “Rational Actor,” Hoffmann coldly sings about the power surrendered to technology: “Everything handed to an empty screen/A distracted sea/An elusive dream.” Images of vastness are conjured over wild-west percussion and bassist Meredith Lones’ roaming plucks. Intergalactic synths scatter in search of escape from the hollow glare of a computer. Nots remind us that omnipresent monitoring, whether by security cameras or online audiences, affects even our free will. Surveillance technologies and the institutions behind them not only track us; they influence our behavior and our choices, whether we want to admit it or not.
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