Surrounded By Infantry – ‘Signals & Noises’

Reviewed by James

Earlier this month I got an opportunity to see Ben Sharp aka Cloudkicker perform on a stage in my hometown of Seattle. I never expected to experience such magic, it was definitely an item to cross off my musical bucket list. To be completely honest, I can’t seem to ever get enough of Cloudkicker, which is why I’ve actually found myself really enjoying Surrounded by Infantry’s latest effort ‘Signals & Noises’, released March 5th. This well hidden gem with only about 200 likes on Facebook comes to us from Dresden, Germany and appears to be a one-man project. Sounds familiar.

You know, I really hate the term ‘rip-off’ when comparing one band to another, but I will say that the first time I heard ‘Signals & Noises’ I honestly believed I was listening to a cover band. At face value, the parallels are simply too hard to ignore. Delving deeper you realize Surrounded by Infantry does stand on it’s own two legs with material of it’s own. In short this album seems to be 50% Cloudkicker reimagines and 50% new material.

I’ll just get this out of the way in case you choose to compare the two so that we can move onto the material that is a better representation of the band’s ability to write songs that aren’t heavily inspired from other artists. And don’t get me wrong, all four of these songs are pretty good, but I’ve heard them before in the form of the following Cloudkicker tracks:

“We Met Twice” = “From The Balcony”
“Before” = “Seattle”
“Letter From N.Y” = “Garage Show”
“Disconnected” = “Let Yourself Be Huge”

The rest of the material on ‘Signals & Noises’ is actually pretty solid and merits giving the album some deserved attention on Postrockstar. “You” is a dreamy blend of spacious guitar work that really gels nicely together to create an upbeat ambient atmosphere. “Were” combines sensual piano with a heavy helping of synthesizers to really bring the mood down a notch. ‘Here’ bookends the album as the closing number. I really like the intro to this track where a sample from ‘I Heart Huckabees’ plays on loop starting as a garbled unintelligible mess and ends up being play continuously throughout the song music without the garbled effect. My biggest complaint is that it’s looped far too much, detracting from the fact that this is actually a pretty intense track with a lot of different musical elements going on. A keyboard opening, Crescendo guitar breakdowns and a synth/keyboard combo ending really set this track apart from all of the rest on the album, except for one.

That track is the title track and also uses samples from ‘I Heart Huckabees’, brilliantly interweaving them into an explosive little number that features fluid guitar work that would likely impressive even the Sharpest of Bens (sorry, I had to!!!!). Honestly I love this track from start to finish. The samples are powerful, the music sets the mood for each one, there is a level of desperation and despair in the storytelling done by the guitar that is riveting and powerful. A+

I think that the original material on ‘Signals & Noises’ makes the album a worthwhile experience to check out. As much as I dogged on the fact that there is a lot of carbon copy translation to be found here, it’s all done really well and I’m a big geek for anything Ben Sharp has ever done, so I really enjoy the reimagines found on this album just as much as the original material. Surrounded by Infantry clearly know what they’re doing from a musical standpoint, they just need to remove some inspiration from the mix.


 tags: ambient electronic instrumental postrock Dresden

5 thoughts on “Surrounded By Infantry – ‘Signals & Noises’

  1. Just got done listening to this after reading your review. Is this album supposed to be a blatant Cloudkicker rip-off? Because it simply sounds like a Fade remix album with a LYBH cover (and a few songs that sound like Fade B-sides). There is even the same sample in “Here” that there is in maybeshewill’s “This Time Last Year”. If the dude came out & said somewhere that this is essentially a cover album, then I guess it won’t bother me as much. But if he’s trying to pass this along as original material, then that’s crap.

    • I dunno man. There are some pretty blatant carbon copies for sure, but there is definitely some redeeming qualities to this album. What struck me as weird is that his first album sounded nothing like the new one.

      Also don’t discount artists who use the same samples as other artists. I can think of at least 3 artists who have used the same samples from the movie ‘The Network’.

  2. Hi my name is Johannes, and I’m the guy behind this project (sorry for bad english, as the author said, I’m a german guy).
    First of all I am really overwhelmed to get a review on this page, it’s pretty impressive.

    Regarding those four songs, yes they are heavily influenced by Cloudkicker, especially the album ‘Fade’.
    After recording two EPs directly into the box without any distortion and drums (but electronic kits), I really wanted to make a nice and rock-like album.
    So I wrote music for one year and half which ended in material of about 75 minutes. Since I’m a huge fan of Cloudkicker and have been amazed by Fade so many times, I aimed for a similar style.

    I wouldn’t call them covers, because with those four songs, I really just took a basic idea (song structure, or drum/riffing pattern) and wrote a song around it.

    All riffs are different to the compared ones, though they do sound similar to the Cloudkicker stuff. After realizing that some songs really sound like Cloudkicker, I even checked if the riffs are the same. If they would have been the same I’d have dropped the songs for sure.

    The song Disconnected is an exception here, as the main background riff seem to be the same (but in Bens song played on the piano). But I discovered those chords by myself. I thought a lot about it, if I can and should release this song. Of course other people might think different about this and that’s fine and I can totally understand this.

    If people are saying, that those are cover songs, I can live with that, because I was heavily influenced by Fade or Cloudkicker in general, but I also wanted to achieve a similar sound and I worked very hard to achieve it. It’s not that I just looked up some Cloudkicker riffs and then recorded those, I always wrote my own stuff.

    It’s like with everything. You are inspired by something, and you want to achieve similar quality. I certainly did not reach the same quality with this record, but I tried hard.

    That’s just something I wanted to clear out.

    I’m releasing a new EP on May 3rd, which will be a short loop based ep and after that I’ll work on a new record that will hopefully be released in 2015. I hope that I can convince those people who are questioning my ability to write own music with the new stuff that’s coming up.

    Despite all that, I’m very thankful for your review, because I’m just a guy from Germany writing some music and put it to the internet, so this is very amazing.
    And I hope that I could answer some questions regarding those four songs. If anyone wants to know more, he can totally mail me.

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