Cloud Nothings hone their craft with Life Without Sound, but prove unafraid to take risks — LA Date at Teragram

Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings — Photo: Jesse Lirola

Cloud Nothings will Perform at Teragram Ballroom Los Angeles Feb. 22

 
For Cleveland quartet Cloud Nothings, a new album is more than just a collection of songs. Over the past few years, bandleader Dylan Baldi has used each of his former solo project’s documents as a turning point for its sound, adding a full band and leaving lo-fi indie pop in the dust on 2012’s Attack on Memory. Guitarist Joe Boyer added texture to that record’s tuneful post-hardcore (as did engineer Steve Albini), but it was the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist TJ Duke and drummer Jayson Gerycz that carried the group as a trio through 2014’s jaw-dropping Here and Nowhere Else. Helmed by superproducer John Congleton, HaNE saw Cloud Nothings ditching any sense of clarity they had found on AoM for full-on claustrophobic noise-punk, Baldi’s tortured howls only underscoring the trio’s cathartic dissonance.

Yet Baldi as a writer has remained a constant variable (kind of a paradox, I know), and his ever-changing compositional voice finally takes the spotlight on Life Without Sound. Rather than delving deeper into anxious chaos, Cloud Nothings have streamlined their aggression, using sparing (but vulgar) displays of power to further detail Baldi’s musings. Take recent singles “Internal World” and “Enter Entirely,” both of which arrive as Pixies-style garage pop but emerge scabbed and flayed by Baldi and new addition Chris Brown’s off-kilter riffing. With another guitarist back in the band and Congleton’s grit wiped away by Northwest legend John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab For Cutie, Blonde Redhead), it’s tempting to compare LWS to Attack on Memory. But Baldi has enough new tricks up his sleeve to draw a deep line in the sand between them – for one, these songs average a bit longer, even though CN’s signature downward-spiral jams are nowhere to be found. “Enter Entirely” devotes the second half of its five minutes to a slow-burn singalong (“Moving on but I still feel it / you’re just a light in me now”) bookended by two classic rock-indebted guitar solos (!). And although opener “Up to the Surface” kicks off the record just like AoM’s “No Future/No Past” – somber piano and guitar arpeggios giving way to a mid-tempo stomper – Baldi’s voice stands tall and proud now, contemplating his alienation instead of being consumed by it. “I saw life in the shadows on foreign lines / I knew peace in the terror of the mind” he moans, shortly before launching the band into an instrumental that cribs its chords and melody from – I sh*t you not – Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”. It’s a pause-and-rewind moment that makes you want to simultaneously laugh and applaud, especially given bedroom-rock contemporaries Car Seat Headrest’s recent fiasco with The Cars’ “Just What I Needed”.

A hyper-melodic opening track with a Coldplay nod might irk those of you who’ll be moshing at Cloud Nothings’ upcoming Teragram show (Feb. 22), but plenty of Life Without Sound still scratches that itch. Lead single “Modern Act” retains Here and Nowhere Else’s nail-biting urgency but stuffs every inch with hooks, playing out like Japandroids swapping booze for Adderall. But it’s Life Without Sound’s last two tracks that showcase the band’s most caustic side – “Strange Year” is a paranoid post-hardcore rager, stumbling back and forth between Fugazi restraint and Unwound savagery while Baldi slurs and stretches his words as if stuck in a bad trip. After it collapses under its own weight amid feedback and piano (a recurring element here), closing track “Realize My Fate” pushes the band to their darkest corners yet. A throbbing, seasick beat builds under an exasperated rant (“I find it hard to realize my fate!”) while noise threatens to swallow the track at any second. After Baldi finally breaks into his trademark scream for the last verse, the band attempts to carry on while Jayson Gerycz gives “drum solo of the year” an early run for its money – he eventually wears the rest of them out, and after their best Swans imitation dies down, Baldi is left alone, strumming a gentle guitar coda as if to remind us: this came from my head. This is my sound.

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For a record that stretches from Chris Martin to Michael Gira in a brisk 38 minutes, Life Without Sound goes down surprisingly easy. There’s a sense of cohesion to it that’s carried over from Here and Nowhere Else, an ease with which each track gives way to the next that belies a consideration for the listener. As such, it feels meant to be absorbed in full – “Modern Act” or “Internal World” might go over well on a certain kind of mixtape, but this is a record for fans of music, made by a fan of music with a vision. It’s this confidence and variety of influences that help Life Without Sound cement Baldi as one of the decade’s premier auteurs – a writer constantly honing his craft, but unafraid to follow his muse forwards, backwards, or sideways through the many genres he’s dabbled in. It’s rare to hear this kind of much less from someone just a quarter-century old. Baldi’s world may be internal, but the glimpses he offers are visceral enough that you can nearly feel it under your feet.

Words: Zach Bilson


Cloud Nothings’ new album Life Without Sound was released January 27 via Carpark Records. Stream it and / or purchase it here.

Cloud Nothings have a Los Angeles date scheduled at the Teragram Ballroom on February 22. Get your tickets here.

Watch Cloud Nothings’ Video for “Internal World”

 

 

CLOUD NOTHINGS TOUR DATES
1/26 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom
01/27 Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
01/28 Montreal, QC – Fairmount Theatre
01/30 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
01/31 Boston, MA – Paradise
02/01 New York, NY – Webster Hall
02/03 Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
02/04 Columbus, OH – A&R Music Bar
02/06 Grand Rapids, MI – Calvin College
02/07 Detroit, MI – El Club
02/09 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
02/10 Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
02/11 Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line
02/12 Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall
02/15 Portland, OR – Doug Fir
02/16 Vancouver, BC – Biltmore Cabaret
02/17 Seattle, WA – Barboza
02/18 Seattle, WA – Barboza
02/20 San Francisco, CA – The Independent
02/22 Los Angeles, CA – Teragram Ballroom
03/01 Copenhagen – Loppen
03/02 Malmo, SE – Babel
03/03 Stockholm, SE – Debaser Strand
03/05 Oslo, NO – Parkteatret
03/06 Hamburg, DE – Knust
03/07 Berlin, DE – Bi Nuu
03/08 Munich, DE – Kranhalle
03/09 Cologne, DE – Luxor
03/11 Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
03/12 Brussels, BE – Botanique
03/14 Paris, FR – Petit Bain
03/16 Bristol, UK – Thekla
03/17 Glasgow, UK – Stereo
03/18 Manchester, UK – Deaf Institute
03/19 Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
03/21 London, UK – Koko
03/22 Birmingham, UK – The Hare & Hounds
03/23 Brighton, UK – The Haunt
05/12-14 Atlanta, GA – Shaky Knees Festival
07/30 New York, NY – Panorama Festival

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