No Bells On Sunday was vocalist Mark Lanegan‘s “warning shot”, his prelude EP released just prior to his 2014 Phantom Radio full length effort. Comprised of “extra” songs that did not make the full length, this vinyl platter is a spin through a dizzying collection of alt-rock ambiance. The EP is nicely engineered, mixed, and mastered. Each song in this latest Pop Focus collection is different – the variety is one of the welcome, stand-out markers.
Full of floaty, almost haunting passages, Mark Lanegan’s songs have one unifying thread, and that is his gravelly, deep voice. Vocals are very much front and center here: the way the lines are phrased compared to the rest of the tracks brings them out without them being mixed too high.
Lanegan and his mysterious band members explore a synth-heavy dreamscape presence in “Dry Iced”, which comes in after about a minute and a half of ‘house techno’ drum machine style rave beats. “No Bells On Sunday” is a very laid-back, almost new-agey, mellow mien. The title track feels pensive, brooding, a little melancholy. Like the first track, this one has a lot of synth layers. Widely regarded as the “highlight” of the EP, “Sad Lover” seems a quasi post-grunge re-creation, like alt-rock mated to industrial and desert rock. Like the first 2 tracks, this is nicely melodic and well-written. “Jonas Pap” is a folky, melancholy, singer-songwriter tune. It seems to be a ‘focusing’, humble acoustic ballad. The song is catchy in that ‘sway along’ way that artists like Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash cultivated. “Smokestack Magic” summarizes or encapsulates the previous four tunes with more ethereal floating, more synths, and the drum machine. At 8:20, this well-composed tune has a long flow of different lyrical ideas, with lots of repeating choruses. It’s interesting to hear his compositional style because it reflects back quickly to different aspects of alt-rock, grunge, desert rock: some of the melody lines, some of the layering, some of the idea streams. It builds up to a slow, brooding, still gentle yet near-industrial type vibe.
High quality, No Bells On Sunday features a light touch: it’s a gentle record. “Dark” Mark Lanegan has created a short collection of very ‘chill’, moody, occasionally melancholy, dark, and ambient songs. While leaning heavily on ‘electronica’, this is definitely music made and performed by human beings. Overall rather simple, mellow, and ethereal, this is great moody music for listening to, before drifting off to sleep.
Track listing with Run times:
Dry Iced — 6:23
No Bells On Sunday — 5:52
Sad Lover — 3:41
Jonas Pap — 2:35
Smokestack Magic — 8:20