I had a feeling I would one day find an active musician not in the Conservatory at all and not even involved in visual art. Unfortunately, this is more rare than you may think these days, at least in my personal experience. It seems as if the arts, music in particular, are not very common unless studied. But this is a whole other discussion, and luckily I have started to become familiar with No Pretty Things—a member of the small demographic consisting of music completely untouched by the Conservatory—and their music.
No Pretty Things, formerly known as Cherry Cough Syrup, is the solo shoegaze project of sophomore Elliot Dryjanski. Since getting an electric guitar a year ago and teaching themself how to play it, they have set out to write primarily their own music, with an ambitious goal of a release every couple of weeks. As of July 2015, Dryjanski has been fairly consistent, releasing nearly twenty finished products, ranging from several-minute pieces to full-length albums.
My first experience hearing No Pretty Things’ music was near the middle of Fall Term this year. I remember it well because I usually happen to know the musicians I am seeing due to networking in the Conservatory and college, but I did not know anything about Dryjanski or their solo project, except that they were in a class of mine.
Before their set I sensed they were timid and reserved; that is quite uncommon in other performers I have seen, as most other concerts have consisted of people who have been performing for a good chunk of their life. But No Pretty Things was different; they had just started honing their craft relatively recently and not done many live shows for an audience. This gives their music and performances an aspect that is not nearly as prevalent in today’s music—a DIY feel that is rough around the edges. This quality seems to appear more in self-taught and amateur-sounding music, such as other campus musicians NG, Lewis Super and Small Boys, all of which either do not study much in the Conservatory or have learned their instruments purely for the purpose of playing music outside of it.
In no way is my use of amateur a negative review—No Pretty Things and the other aforementioned bands exude character and uniqueness that strongly appeal to me and would not be the same if they were all virtuosic musicians that played polished, well-rehearsed songs. The fact that Dryjanski plays the way they do with limited ability and instruction allows them to fully explore the realms of music they wish to at their own pace. Their progress, direction and influences are solely up to them.
This introspective, simple approach and strong passion for making music is quite clearly apparent when listening to any one of their releases or seeing them perform. A flow of emotions and both delicate and harsh sounds are always present. As the artist themself puts it, “I try and put a lot of my emotion into the music without being explicit about it, especially writing instrumental music.” Despite being a difficult task, Dryjanski achieves it wonderfully.
From their various dreamy instrumentals to their bittersweet cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” to their newest release that incorporates field recordings and a more ambient approach, No Pretty Things continues to beat to their own drum and create whatever music pleases them. What is great about this constant stream of music that varies and evolves is that the listeners can take a look into Dryjanski’s heart and mind every few weeks and witness them change with the music.
You can find No Pretty Things’ releases here. They will be performing this Saturday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m., kicking off a day of campus bands hosted by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia that will go until 12 a.m.