Returning again for the Fat Cat label, somber Scottish trio The Twilight Sad deliver a pensive 42-minute swath through recoil that will no doubt give longtime fans of the group something to talk about once it snaps back to ears. Bred on what felt like a mixture of their homeland’s noted impact on post punk and the everyday, emotional grants coming from indie’s lovers and post rock’s divers, The Twilight Sad now deliver their version two: one steeped in relative scarcity and propped up by sounds pulled from industrial, kraut or avant-garde pop experiments.

Enjoying a fairly moderate, yet successful run under the critical shade since their inception in 2003, The Twilight Sad have always lived up to their name in creating moody, rock creations that blossomed at the selling point of your girlfriend also being able to get down- not too ‘goth’ but just ‘goth’ enough. Record covers depicted slightly off-kilter drawings of suffocation by pillow or masked children playing while the tracks themselves could, without much stretch, soundtrack a solitary drive under moonlight, the aftermath of a lover’s quarrel. It proved interesting then watching their contemporaries, notably fellow Scots Glasvegas, have a harder time advancing and (in their own race) get over the hurdle of Interpol (née Joy Division) obsession, their poised run turning quickly into a trot.

So, it’s pleasing then on No One Can Ever Know how vocalist James Graham leads guitarist/programmer Andy MacFarlane and drummer/programmer Mark Devine through experiments in atmospherics and textures that exist here for the the first time on a TS record. There’s heavy theatrics, throbbing militancy, icy synths and digitized, looping unease all mingling with the act’s known, emotive effect at producing something distinguishing. The thick, shoegazing sound bed that filled their earlier work is gone and replaced by a more desolate wander giving the record the near feeling of a swaddled heart- the alive and beating middle ground exists, but when it’s influence from the likes of Magazine, PiL and NIN as the blood pumping through it all, it’s noticeably harder to always find that responsive pulse.

Lyrically, the material on No One doesn’t feel that different from before. Again we find the band letting their songs function as a setting where Graham’s impacting dialogue lives through moody and slinky instrumental action. Before we break new ground, fans of the older material not yet wanting to yet trade their Arab Strap for Nine Inch Nails certainly have a few songs to embrace: “Don’t Look At Me” is a fuller and bounding trip while well-deserving single “Another Bed” edges close to stadium-filling ilk with that dark, engaging synth-supported oomph nearby. Playing though as creature comforts in a foreign land, these songs aren’t at all the best examples of the band’s new path. Debut single “Sick” mixes Hail to the Thief sequenced mood and glittery Cure keyboards; “Not Sleeping” wanders for over half the track, until kit-pounding percussion and vocal wails aide its coda to a dry and blunt finish; Perfect of No One, “Nil” is a paced, brooding and passionate slice and for those after Trent Reznor and his Nails, it’s the last tune, “Kill in the Morning” that’s drenched in thick, distorted bass, incessant and mechanical elements and personal vocal calls.

“Kill” in particular cradles some of No One’s best moments. An already heavy song, the second half clinches with what’s likely the entire album’s most uneasy moment under theatrical warn and buzzing, discordant swirls that build to end both the song and album at Graham and Graham only. In a sentiment that could likely be pinned on The Twilight Sad’s entire catalog, the singer in a half scream, half sing, lets out, “What more do you need to know, staying here well down below” and the tune is over. Flirting with the darker side of things might not always lead to open arms, but it’s definitely filled with some very vibrant and enticing emotional moments, eh?

Originally written for the MISHKA Bloglin