Cloudkicker – Subsume

Subsume cover art

Artist Cloudkicker
Album Subsume
Genre Post-Metal | Post-Rock
Buy/DL Bandcamp
Web Cloudkicker Blog
Release 14 September 2013
Rating: Must Listen

Its funny that we split so many things into genres and sub-genres, especially when reviewing something, just to give a better hint as to whether someone might be interested in it.

“Oh, third wave slow core is the best!”

“No way, blackened post-doom all the way!”

Obviously I’m exaggerating here, but my point is that there are some things that are only a few people’s cup of tea, whereas other things tend to lend themselves to a wider audience. We seem to have a specific niche that we champion, if only in our hearts. I don’t find fault it that, but I think sometimes it’s to the detriment of our potential experience.

Ironically, this is sort of how I felt about Cloudkicker for a while. I felt that I was too cool for it.  I was into different stuff, more “core” as it were.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Ben Sharp’s musical output. It’s certainly not that it was a different sort of music than I prefer, because I love post metal when it’s done well.  It was just something about the whole idea about Cloudkicker I had fabricated in my mind. They were popular and sort of generic, I thought.

Well, I was definitely half right. Since 2007 Sharp has been very consistently building up a very large fan base, while consistently expanding his musical output. In fact, I was surprised when I found out how much of an influence Cloudkicker really had on not only post-whatever music, but on the process of Internet word of mouth “marketing.”

Marketing is in quotes for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t believe Ben ever monetized Cloudkicker music up until Subsume, and, secondly, because I don’t think he goes out of his way to push his music at all.

This is really refreshing to me. The whole idea of “it’s there if you want it, and if you like it tell a friend” distribution is awesome. Add the fact that Cloudkicker is so prolific and consistent, and you’ve got quite the underground powerhouse.

Which is exactly why my more narrow minded side avoided prolonged exposure to this amazing band.

Subsume is a masterpiece.  I haven’t heard an album this strong in quite a while. From nuance to anthemic riff, it declares itself majestic and moving, something not to overlook.

Sharp has outdone himself. After looking into Cloudkicker’s back catalogue, it seems he makes a habit of this. This time, however, He’s gone to the pinnacle of this post-metal mountain and basically established post-“djent” as not only a viable subgenre, but something so refined yet spirited that I don’t think Subsume’s legacy will ever be in question.

From the slow sonic pulse of the buildup that introduces “The warmth of the daytime seemed like a dream now” to the jaunty haunty martially sludge flow of “You could laugh forever but never end up happy” we are taken on a journey that feels universal and personal at the same time. Nowhere does this album feel weak or strained. It is both devastating and empowering.

While not the heaviest post-metal around, Subsume has many thunderous moments, not just in the usual ebb and flow dynamics of the album, but in the excellent production. Cloudkicker has never sounded this open and wide. Drums thunder and slap, Guitars manifest as clouds that rain beauty and shoot thick riff lightening, all while the thunder of the low-end rolls unmolested. I’ve listened to this album on many pieces of equipment, in many environments, and I can’t point out a single missed opportunity in the sound range and mix.

I mentioned that, to my knowledge, Subsume is the first time Cloudkicker has charged for an album. It is most certainly worth the price. So much so, in fact, that I chose to purchase the vinyl. This is something I haven’t done with a reviewed band since Caspian released Waking Season.

This is top-notch music that will most certainly be on my year’s best list, and honestly, if I ever have the fortune of meeting Ben Sharp, I will be thanking him for creating this excellent album.

Today We Give Thanks..

I just wanted to take a brief moment to say thank you to everyone who has made this site the success it is today. Thank you to all our readers, the bands who send us material to promote and the writers who have been generous enough to contribute their time to reviews for our site (especially Erich who has an excellent Cloudkicker review coming up tomorrow). This year has been a real learning experience for myself and the site as we continue to grow and try to improve on the foundation we have created in our brief existence.

Coming up in December, expect to see DOUBLE the amount of albums promoted on the site! We’ve fallen deeply behind on submissions and want to start 2014 off with that fresh slate I talked about in the State of the Union address. Also we’ll be doing our second annual Postrockstar year end awards and staff picks as the year comes to a close. December should be a fun month all around for the site as we try to play catch up, so prepare your ears for an onslaught of brilliant music!

Unconditional Arms – Kinship

Kinship cover artEvery so often I’m moved  by something so beautiful that it inspires me to just write, and I don’t stop until everything on my mind is out in the open. Sometimes those writings get saved into a folder on my desktop never to be read by anyone but myself. Other times they wind up on Postrockstar or one of my various social media accounts. Today I’ve been inspired to tell you about the story of Jeffrey Wright. Wright is a California musician who plays guitar and sings  for an indie/alternative band called The American Scene, but that’s not why I’m writing about him today.

Drawing inspiration from the arrival of his firstborn son Owen, Jeffery created ‘Kinship’, an ambient post-rock album under the moniker of Unconditional Arms as a gift to his son. The album was funded entirely via a kickstarter campaign held earlier this year and I have nothing but respect for the 43 backers who were able to make Jeffrey’s idea a reality.  His vision and reason for creating this 6-track album is the perfect example of why I have such a deep love for post-rock and the surrounding genres. I find that when I can make an emotional connection between a musician and their work I tend to enjoy their music much, much more.

In his own words,

The main question that is brought up to me when I reveal to others that I’m having a baby is them asking if I’m ready for it or not. After a long bit of thought I arrived at my personal conclusion. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. In this realization and life altering time, I’ve found a spark of inspiration and drive to give everything that I have to this person who doesn’t even exist yet. Which brings me to my next question: What do I have to give?

I have the gift of music. Sure, it’s not a trust fund or a brand new 4 bedroom house. It’s something that I’ve been passionately pursuing for years and a representation of everything that I care about in this life. I work in music as my job and I write music as my catharsis. I want this child to have everything I have to give right from the moment it’s born and writing an album is more meaningful than anything else I could possibly think of. “

‘Kinship’ is a 26-minute odyssey that doesn’t stray too far from the ambient post-rock front. The album does a very good job at welcoming the listener with its soothingly cheerful and predominantly light demeanor. Musically each of the six tracks represents a different style of song writing. You have the intro track “The Family Tree” that is your more straightforward song full of catchy and clever guitar work which is followed by “Television on the Weekends” , a more slower, experimental ambient effort that only starts to pick up in intensity in the final moments. This leads into “First Look” that begins with a recording of couple (potentially Jeffery and his significant other) discussing the potential sex of their unborn baby before the song evolves from light guitar murmurings into a full-scale third wave jam driven by dominating drums and a spiraling crescendo that never wants to quit.

“Transition and Finality” offers a more drone approach to song writing with a persistent rattle that never goes away as well as static-laden offerings. “Conscious Whirr” is where ‘Kinship’ spikes in heaviness as it leaps out quickly with a strong backing drum track and a much tighter and focused sound that sees it finish with a loud breakdown amidst aggressive drumming,  ‘Kinship’ concludes with “Rest”, a short two-minute heartfelt acoustic finish that really does a great job rounding out the album and bringing it back full circle with a catchy closing number.

Jeffery’s son Owen has only been a part of this world for three short months yet his impending arrival inspired his Father to create a beautiful album that will be heard and enjoyed by thousands of listeners. This album is far more than just a gift from Father to Son. It’s a representation of love for life and music by a conscientious soul who sees the world around him and the life he has created for far more than just face value. ‘Kinship’ reinforces the idea that we can make a meaningful impact in this world by doing whatever it is that we do best. Through Unconditional Arms, Jeffery has not only provided an amazing welcoming gift to his son but he has provided the rest of the world with a chance to peek into the window of his soul and experience the raw emotion of a major turning point in a young musicians life. For that Jeffery Wright has my respect and hopefully he will have your ears as well.