Memphis’ Nots slim from a quartet to a three piece for their third album, appropriately titled, 3 – the magic number this time around. Without the extra, added synth snarls of Alexandra Eastburn, the band digs into the gaunt, wiry workings of post-punk with a leaner attitude. The record is fraut and fighting for air in a field that’s already bloodied and battered. The guitars cut into the wrists with an abrasive ache, the drums hammer at the backs of the eyelids like ball peen bullets and singer/synther Natalie Hoffmann uses the single keys setup to disorient the listener with a laser load of wobbly sonics. Where once they’d build in pillowy pads behind their clipped catastrophics, now they’re pulling away any comfort that the listener might lean into to catch balance. The record is Nots at their most feral, vicious, and vital.

The band was always ripped to the razors, but this time there’s a particularly jagged edge to their sound, bolstered by the compact lineup and perhaps reflecting the collective raised hackles of a country on constant edge. Synth-punk can often jut in two different directions – towards the jocular, with a wink and a sneer or taking a darker drift towards panic-struck fever fuel, twitching through the hours with the kind of crumpled soul that’s never quite at rest. With 3 the band takes a decided turn towards the latter, gnawing their set to the marrow, sucking the air from their wounds, and locking themselves tight in a bunker of bone-dry riffs, and strychnine synths. The departure of their former bandmate may have left them reassessing their direction, but by pulling back the curtain on complexity they’ve managed to make their most affecting record yet. This is Nots without pity and I’m all in.

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