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