No wave is music built on the idea of opposition—a rollercoaster of sound that alternates between discordant melodies and noisy, belligerent textures. The Brooklyn group Parlor Walls channel that spirit on their latest LP Heavy Tongue, creating a type of music that they call “anti-melody.” The duo of Alyse Lamb and Chris Mulligan have retained the throbbing percussion and sheets of sound that characterized their 2018 EP EXO, but here, they’ve stripped it down to a kind of raw, instinctive energy.
Heavy Tongue thrives on a tension that’s never resolved. The thundering drum patterns on opening track “Birds of Paradise” recall the ritualistic beats Budgie summoned for The Creatures, hammering away beneath tight, stabbing guitars and a low, persistent drone. Lamb’s vocals swing from beckoning to threatening; on “Lunchbox,” over queasy keys and hammering drums, she menacingly repeats, “Is it power you adore? Or is it love you are after?” By contrast, on “Violets”—the closest the album comes to a pop song—she playfully alternates between Tina Weymouth-style speak-singing and a gentle melodic croon. And on closing track “Rails,” her voice floats eerily over a raucous industrial pulse and gnarled tangles of guitar. Moments like these suggest Parlor Walls aren’t entirely “anti-melody;” but they retain enough of no wave’s oppositional spirit that even at their sunniest, they’re only seconds away from a storm.